For those of us that are fortunate, our biggest gripes about the holiday season are the traffic, wrapping gifts and what to buy that annoying co-worker you got stuck with in your office Secret Santa. But for many vulnerable Rhode Islanders, meeting basic needs are their number one concern. From food to shelter, we have neighbors that need our help this season. Here’s how to make a difference.
Shop for a Cause
According to RI Kids Count, one in five kids in our state lives under the federal poverty line. That statistic, which is nearly 45,000 children, is absolutely staggering, but you can make a small difference by contributing to a holiday giving program. Child & Family, one of the state’s largest providers of housing and support for foster children, organizes an annual Adopt-A-Family program. Here’s how it works: you fill out an online form specifying how many children you will purchase gifts for. The recommended amount per child is $100-$150, and the non-profit makes it clear that your gifts are the only gifts these children will receive on the holidays. Once you make your selection, you’ll receive some information about that child, like his name, age and clothing size. You’ll also get his or her holiday wish list, which makes it quite easy to shop for. If you can’t afford this on your own, get creative and make this a family-wide tradition, or pull together a few co-workers who can all chip in. Gifts get wrapped and dropped off just in time to make a child light up on Christmas Day. What feels better than that? Wrapped gifts need to be dropped off by December 17 to their Middletown location, 31 John Clarke Road. 849-2300.
Teens living in foster care are an underserviced population all year long. Everybody can get behind helping a young child with clothes or toys – or even becoming a foster parent – but older children often get forgotten about in the charitable mix. Adolescents at risk already have the odds stacked against them, and this also rings true during the holidays. That’s why Foster Forward has a teenage specific Holiday Gift Campaign. The non-profit provides all types of support and programming to foster parents and children in DCYF care. Much like other adopt-a-family programs, donors will receive a teen’s name, interests and gift requests. While you might think video games and smart phones top their lists, the reality is coats, socks and sneakers are usually the most-wanted. 438-3900
Feed the Hungry
The Rhode Island Convention Center will transform into a massive community center on December 19 when Feed 1,000 returns for its fifth year. The non-profit event, which was started by three Pawtucket-based business owners as a way to give back to Rhode Islanders in need, serves hot, healthy meals to over 2,000 homeless and at-risk individuals, many of them children. Coats, gloves, toys and other in-demand items will also be distributed this day, along with some much needed holiday cheer. Volunteers are needed for everything from greeting and seating attendees to serving them food. Individuals and groups can sign up online to lend a hand, and make a small difference in the day in the life. 616-2050
Through a statewide network of meal sites, food pantries and shelters, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank serves roughly 60,000 Rhode Islanders each month. That already dire statistic tends to surge even more during the winter, as wallets get tighter due to increasing heating costs. While food drives are abundant this time of year at sites like supermarkets and banks, you can donate and get a behind-the-scenes volunteer experience at the Food Bank’s Holiday Food Drive & Open House. Held at their Providence headquarters on December 12, families are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods in exchange for a holiday open house that includes music, activities, a tour of the facility and the opportunity to roll up your sleeves to help sort food in the warehouse. 9am-12pm, 200 Niantic Avenue. 942-MEAL