Ways your family can give to the needy this Christmas in MD

Giving4WBy Katie Riley

The Christmas season is the perfect time to teach kids the importance of giving to the less fortunate and there are many ways to do this in Maryland.

It's important for kids — and adults — to focus on giving and volunteering around the holidays as a way to keep the true spirit of the Christmas alive, says Sarah Spaulding, a licensed counselor from Columbia and guidance counselor at the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills.

"A child's holiday focus may be on presents and parties, but volunteering breaks them out of that rut," Spaulding says. "Regular volunteering ... encourages children to develop empathy, rather than sympathy, for the less fortunate, and they will carry that ability throughout all facets of their life."

Five years ago, when the McLean family of Catonsville lost their beloved family dog, they decided to turn their grief into something positive by hosting a holiday donation drive for needy pets.

Mom Angie, dad Chuck and daughters Gabriella, 14, and Madelin, 12, collected an entire vanload of dog and cat food, pet toys and blankets for homeless animals at the Maryland SPCA.

"The donation drive sparked a consistent response in my kids," Angie says. "It taught them the very basic lesson of kindness to others and they were excited for more opportunities."

The McLeans have continued to collect for the SPCA each year, and last year they partnered with local schools to collect more than four vanloads of supplies for needy pets.

The Kinsella family of Severna Park, meanwhile, started volunteering with Giving Back: Linda's Legacy 13 years ago. The charity delivers warm clothes and necessities to the homeless on Christmas Eve.

"That first year, our family delivered items until 3 a.m. on the streets of Baltimore," says mom Ellen Kinsella. "It was exhausting, but our children were enthusiastic and energized by the experience."

Now grown, her three children still volunteer each year, sorting clothes and packing backpacks for the charity that serves thousands of homeless in the greater Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area.

"In a time when we are bombarded by commercialism, it's refreshing to see the true spirit of Christmas giving in action," Kinsella says. "It is truly the best possible way to spend our Christmas Eve."

If you are looking for ways for your family to give to the needy this holiday season, see our list below. No matter what your family's interests — from pets to helping less fortunate families — there is a way to give back this season.

4 ways your family can give to the needy this Christmas

Adopt a family

Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services
Adopt a needy family or senior this holiday season through the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services. Deliver gifts, food and clothing directly to a needy family or senior through the Holiday Sharing program.

"The Holiday Sharing Program offers a great opportunity for personalized giving," says Tanya Steele, a special program volunteer coordinator.

Families can specify what kind of family and how many people they would like to gift. Donors may even choose the geographical area that is convenient for them.

Families can sign up online or contact the program directly to choose a specific giving opportunity. Food and clothing for seniors and gift cards for teens are in greatest need.

80 West St., Annapolis; 410-269-4462, dhr.state.md.us and click on Anne Arundel County.

Sarah's House
Give to the residents of Sarah's House, a shelter at Fort Meade for homeless families, by donating food, clothing or gifts to their Christmas celebration. Adopt a specific family or choose to donate toys and gift cards to their Christmas shopping program. The program takes donations and hosts a "shopping" day for needy parents so they may choose and wrap gifts for their own children.
Families can also volunteer their time at Sarah's House by hosting a holiday craft, activity or movie night for the dozens of children that call Sarah's House home.

2015 20th St., Fort Meade; 410-551-7722, catholiccharities-md.org/sarahs-house

YWCA of Anne Arundel County
Support women and children fleeing from domestic abuse by donating to the YWCA Angel Tree program. Visit the organization's headquarters in Arnold to adopt a family or an individual rebuilding a life after the tragedy of abuse.

The Angel Tree supports need-based families seeking counseling and legal advice, but also supports the residents of Arden House, the only domestic violence safe house in Anne Arundel County.

1517 Ritchie Highway, Suite 201, Arnold; 410-626-7800, annapolisywca.org/get-involved

Help the Homeless and HungryGivingGBLL SignW

Giving Back, Linda's Legacy
Families can help make Christmas a little warmer through Giving Back, Linda's Legacy, a nonprofit that delivers winter clothing every Christmas Eve to the homeless of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Sponsor a backpack for $25 that includes a new set of thermal underwear, a hat, gloves and sweat suit for the homeless. Donate new and gently used items at the charity's collection days or pack and sort clothing as a family Dec. 20-23 at the Anne Arundel County Farmer's Market.

On Dec. 24, families with younger children can make daytime deliveries. At night, families with children 14 and older are invited to help distribute backpacks, food and clothing directly to the needy on the city streets.

626C Admiral Drive, Annapolis; info@homelessdrive.org, homelessdrive.org

Bridges to Housing Stability
Help a family move into their new home before the holidays by volunteering with Bridges to Housing Stability, a Howard County nonprofit dedicated to finding affordable housing for low-income families.

Each December, the organization prepares several properties to be cleaned, painted and readied for new residents to move in before the holidays. Volunteer to prep the new home or donate a Welcome Home basket filled with necessities like towels, a shower curtain or small household items.

410-312-5760 ext. 117; bridges2hs.org/volunteer.php

Maryland Food Bank
No family should go hungry during the holidays, and the Maryland Food Bank operates facilities in Baltimore, Hagerstown and Salisbury that distribute more than 79,000 meals per day. Donate food, volunteer for pantry organization or begin an online campaign to providehungry families with a holiday meal this season.

Call the branch nearest to you for specific food needs, or go online to create a food donation campaign for your family.

Main office: Baltimore, 410-737-8282, or call to find your closest branch; mdfoodbank.org/volunteer

Giving1WGive to Four-legged Friends

Maryland SPCA Presents for Pets
Animal lovers can donate treats and new cat and dog toys for homeless animals at the Maryland SPCA Adoption Center in Baltimore or at their local SPCA. Families can also donate gently used towels and blankets or empty toilet and paper towel rolls to be used to create cat toys.

Adoption Center at 3300 Falls Road, Baltimore; 410-235-8826, mdspca.org/updates/detail/presents-for-pets

Kent County Humane Society
Honor loved ones this holiday season by making a donation in their name to the Kent County Humane Society, and helpful elves will mail a personalized card thanking them for the gift. Call the shelter for a list of specific needs.

Your family can also visit and play Santa to some lonely cats and dogs. The shelter also maintains an Amazon wish list for online donations.

10720 Augustine Herman Hwy., Chestertown; 410-778-3648, kenthumane.com

Gifts for Kids

Toys for Tots
Last year, Toys for Tots donated 57,000 toys to underprivileged children in the Baltimore area. Donate online or locate a drop box from the dozens listed throughout Maryland.

baltimoretoysfortots@gmail.com, baltimore-md.toysfortots.org

Child's Play
Child's Play seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the donation of toys, books and games. Families can send a financial donation to be used for purchasing gaming devices for children's hospital wings or go online and search the Amazon wish list of more than 70 hospitals nationwide. In Maryland, Child's Play has partnered with the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

childsplaycharity.org or view Johns Hopkins Amazon Wish List at Amazon.com by searching for Child's Play wish list and click on Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

St. Jude's
At the St. Jude's Gift Shop, families can choose to donate any monetary amount to help children with cancer, but the St. Jude's Gift shop also allows donors to choose how they want to help through specific events or materials for a patient. Sponsor a No Mo' Chemo party for a patient for $25, purchase a wagon to transport a patient to treatments for $75, or share the cost of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a bone marrow treatment.

800-746-1539, giftshop.stjude.org/gifts-of-donation

Other places donationa are needed.

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