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Published: Sunday, 12/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Area groups say need for help exceeds holidays

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Volunteer Kim Fisher sorts through toys before a Christmas party at Helping Hands of St. Louis in Toledo. Volunteer Kim Fisher sorts through toys before a Christmas party at Helping Hands of St. Louis in Toledo.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

It happens every year.

The calls start around the first week of November. They come from well-meaning would-be volunteers looking to serve dinner to homeless families on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

“We get slammed with phone calls this time of year, but when January and February roll around, it is a ghost town,” lamented Renee Palacios, executive director of Family House, a homeless shelter in central Toledo.

Ms. Palacios, like directors of many local nonprofit groups, said she is grateful for the offers of holiday assistance but wishes the generosity extended year-round.

“We accept volunteers all through the year,” she said. “Our mission depends on volunteers and community supports.”

Volunteers are needed to sort clothing donations, stock food pantries, answer phones, and do other office work.

Volunteering is an important way for people to give back, to learn about and be engaged in their community, and a free activity families can do together, said Jane Moore, interim president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Toledo.

“It’s wonderful to be engaged at the holiday time. But volunteers are needed year-round,” she said.

Harvey Savage, executive director of the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor, said, “I think all the agencies appreciate what people do during this season. Because it is a time when people reflect on all the things that they have and that others do not have. ... we have this two-month period where we do a lot of reflecting.

“But the year is 12 months.”

The central-city site served 32,971 meals last year.

Cherry Street Mission Ministries had about 5,000 volunteers last year donating about 60,000 hours, said Roz Goodwin, the shelter’s director of stewardship services.

Volunteers there do everything from preparing and serving meals to tutoring and teaching GED classes to playing live music to entertain shelter guests.

“Their time is just as valuable as a check in the mail to us,” said Ms. Goodwin.

 

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Those looking for a holiday volunteer activity can find some suggestions below. To sign up, contact the agency directly, or call 2-1-1 and be connected to the United Way Volunteer Center, or sign up online at unitedwaytoledo.org/volunteer.

Christmas toy/food distribution

Dec. 18, 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Agency: Salvation Army

Contact: Janna Van Zee 419-241-1138 ext. 116 Janna.VanZee@use.salvationarmy.org

Volunteers are needed to help with distributing donated toys and food to local families in need. Volunteers get to meet the families and help them pick out toys and food.

Serving hot meals

Dec. 18, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Agency: Helping Hands of St. Louis

Contact: Paul Cook, 419-691-0613, ext. 2.

Volunteers are needed to serve a Christmas meal.

Gift wrapping (no direct contact with families)

Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Agency: Family House

Contact: (419) 242-5505, ask for Audrey Davis

Volunteers are needed to help wrap gifts for donations being sent to residents of local shelters. Wrapping paper is needed as well.

Gift wrapping (no direct contact with families)

Dec. 19, 1 – 3 p.m.

Agency: Volunteers of America Northwest Ohio

Contact: (419) 248-3733

Volunteers are needed to help wrap gifts for donations being sent to residents of local shelters.

Serving hot meals

Dec. 23, Noon - 1:30 p.m.

Agency: St. Paul’s Community Center

Contact: 419-255-5520

Volunteers are needed to help serve hot meals, as well as for fellowship, to meet and talk to individuals.

Serving hot meals

Dec. 25, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Agency: Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission Center

Contact: 419-241-6579

Volunteers are needed to help serve hot meals, as well as for fellowship, to meet and talk to individuals.

Serving hot meals

Dec. 26 and 27

Agency: Helping Hands of St. Louis

Contact: Paul Cook, 419-691-0613, ext. 2.

Volunteers are need to cook and serve meals.



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