By Colleen Sparks
It’s easy for community members to help to brighten the winter holidays for people who are struggling financially this season.
Many different businesses, non-profit organizations and other groups are collecting toys, clothes, food and other items, as well as accepting financial donations to provide gifts and necessities for those in need. They also are seeking volunteers to help create holiday magic for anyone who has fallen on hard times.
“Operation Santa Claus” is a program that has been assisting families in the Valley for 21 years. ABC15 kicked off this annual charity drive last month and donors who contribute at least $5 are being entered into a drawing for a chance to win a new vehicle. Through a partnership with Sanderson Ford, ABC15 is collecting food, toys, clothes and financial donations to benefit charities in the state. The contributions will go to St. Mary’s Food Bank, Special Olympics Arizona, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) , Military Assistance Mission (MAM) and Chicanos Por La Causa. This annual charity drive will continue through Monday, Dec. 20. You can drop off new, unwrapped toys, as well as children’s clothes, packaged food and monetary donations to all The UPS Store locations around the Valley, including the ones at 111 E. Dunlap Ave. and 7000 N. 16th St. The public also can bring the donations to Sanderson Lincoln at 2121 W. Bell Road in Phoenix; Sanderson Ford at 6400 N. 51st Ave. in Glendale and Sanderson Lincoln Boutique at 15345 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. To learn more, visit https://givetotheclaus.com.
Jerry Brown, director of public relations at St. Mary’s Food Bank, said demand for food is high. The organization helps alleviate hunger by gathering and distributing food while encouraging self-sufficiency, advocacy, collaboration and education.
“We’re still feeding families right up through the holidays,” Brown said. “Every dollar donated to St. Mary’s provides seven meals in the community.”
St. Mary’s Food Bank is one of the few food banks that will be open the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to allow anyone in need to obtain meals. The public can donate canned food from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays at its main office and warehouse at 2831 N. 31st Ave. and at its location at 13050 W. Elm St. in Surprise. This organization also needs volunteers to help build food boxes and it can always use financial donations. To learn more, visit www.firstfoodbank.org. Those who make a financial donation can receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit in Arizona.
You can soak up the holiday spirit while helping others when you attend the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce’s 13th Annual Festival of Trees from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel at 100 N. 1st St. At this upscale event, decorated holiday trees, wreaths, menorahs and other displays will be available for auction and sale. There will be holiday musical entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and various raffles.
A portion of the proceeds from this festival of trees will benefit GLSEN’s Changing the Game, a non-profit initiative with a purpose of helping schools offer safe and inclusive opportunities for LGBTQ+ students in sports and physical education; as well as to Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization (AZTYPO), which empowers families to ensure trans and gender-expansive youths have the support and resources needed to live their best lives. Tickets to the festival of trees are $75 each for general admission and $100 for VIP entry. To buy tickets, visit www.equalitychamber.org.
Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) is once again hosting its “It’s A Wrap” adopt-a-family program. Clinicians at JFCS find families with the most need and put together wish lists that volunteers in the community use to buy the requested items. This program supports Jewish and non-Jewish families. The wrapped gifts must be dropped off between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Martin Pear Jewish Community Center at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road by Dec. 3. Anyone who wants to adopt a family should contact Jayne Plotkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“These past 18-20 months have been tough on everyone, but the holidays bring about even more challenges,” said Kathy Rood, program manager for JFCS. “But each year, the community generously provides gifts for our families in need, and we are so grateful to help make the holidays a little brighter for those who need it the most.”
Esperança, a global health organization, offers a Christmas Angels program through which the community can sponsor a child or senior citizen to ensure they will have gifts for the holidays. Because of the pandemic, its employees will shop for and deliver the gifts this year. Financial donations can be made by Dec. 13 at esperanca.org/Christmas. Volunteers also are needed to help wrap presents from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 8. To volunteer to wrap gifts, contact Tiffany@esperanca.org.
Arizona’s Children Association is holding a holiday toy drive, where the public can donate new toys and other gifts and gift cards to youths from birth to 18 years old. You can donate books, clothes, art supplies, stuffed animals, blankets, headphones, small electronics, board games and many other items. Residents who want to donate items should bring them to the association’s office at 3636 N. Central Ave., Suites 200 and 300, within the first two weeks of this month. You can sponsor a single child or a group of siblings and coordinate gift drives at your workplace or club. To learn more, visit www.arizonaschildren.org/gifts-of-hope.
Residents can give the gift of life when they participate in a blood drive from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18 at Christown Spectrum Mall at 1703 W. Bethany Home Road. The mall, the East Sunnyslope Neighborhood Association and Block Watch and Phoenix Police Department are hosting this event. To learn more, contact Jeff Tisot, president of the association and Block Watch, at email@example.com or 623-759-2881 or visit bloodhero.com to make an appointment to give blood.
The Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel 2021 program, a tradition every year, provides gifts to children. You can visit a Christmas Angel tree at Christown Spectrum Mall and 11 other malls in the state, take a tag off the tree, buy a gift and then return it to Salvation Army volunteers. The tags list the child’s gender, age range and a toy suggestion. Deadlines for the items to be dropped off vary by location. Businesses in Arizona also can set up collection boxes for their employees and customers to place gifts for the Christmas Angel program. Some Walmart stores also are teaming up with The Salvation Army to provide the Christmas Angel trees to collect gifts for youths in need.
The Salvation Army Metro Phoenix also is looking for volunteers for its annual Red Kettle Campaign. Volunteers ring a bell near a red kettle to collect financial donations from the public. To register and find a location for a bell-ringing shift, visit www.salvationarmyphoenix.org/be-a-bell-ringer. For more information about the Christmas Angel program, visit www.salvationarmyphoenix.org/christmas-angel.
RE/MAX offices around Arizona are partnering with Phoenix Children’s and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in a holiday toy drive fundraiser. Arizona RE/MAX Offices hope to receive 1,000 toys delivered to patients. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the campaign is virtual and people can make financial contributions online. Rattles for infants, games for older children and gift cards for teenagers are among the items that will be bought for patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. You can make a donation by Dec. 24 by visiting www.AZToyDrive.com.
House of Refuge Sunnyslope can use donations of mattress covers for queen and twin-size beds, as well as pillows this season. This Christian housing program serves homeless, unemployed and recently sober residents in Phoenix. It provides shelter, food, employment skills training and spiritual transformation for men, women and single mothers with children. You can bring mattress covers and pillows to the organization at 9844 N. 7th Place anytime from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. To learn more, call 602-678-0223 or visit https://refugesunnyslope.com.
North Phoenix Kiwanis also could use support this season. It will be donating about 150 boxes of Christmas gifts to families in need in the Washington Elementary School District on Dec. 11. You can make a financial donation to the club and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit by visiting https://north-phoenix-az.kiwanisone.org.