With Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas just around the corner, charities and other organizations in the community have already started organizing donations and drives to help those in need during the holidays.
Among the largest charity organizations in the area is Monroe County House of Neighborly Service in Waterloo. HNS focuses on fundraisers and charity throughout the year, but is particularly busy amid the holidays.
Prior to Thanksgiving, their efforts are largely focused on collecting food to ensure that poorer families in the community can still afford to have a substantial meal to celebrate.
House of Neighborly Service Board Vice President Jan Dudley said the organizations expects to give out about 200 Thanksgiving food baskets prior to Thursday.
HNS is now focusing on its Christmas Outreach program, which primarily consists of family adoption.
Members of the community can sign up to help support a family, generally helping to make sure that the family – particularly the kids – have a good Christmas.
“You get a kid’s wish list, clothes sizes, things the family needs, and you just basically adopt them and take care of them for the holidays,” Dudley said.
After signing up and being assigned a family, participants are asked to provide three – if possible – gifts on the wish list, wrapping the gifts or providing wrapping paper to allow the parents to wrap the gifts themselves.
Participants are also able to provide a gift for the adults of the family if they choose.
They then deliver the gifts to HNS – properly marked in a bag or box – by Monday, Dec. 12, though the office will also be open during normal hours before that date.
HNS is already quite busy with the gift packages received from participants this season.
Dudley noted that HNS as an organization doesn’t put the gifts together, and how many they have to work with demonstrates how giving the Monroe County community can be.
“That’s the awesome part,” Dudley said. “We didn’t create them, the community created the boxes. Churches, schools, individuals, organizations in Monroe County provided that gift.”
Those looking to sign up or learn more about the Christmas Outreach program can do so at monroecountyhns.org.
The Waterloo Optimist Club, along with Outsider Tavern, is also busy with the annual Toys for Tots drive.
Waterloo Optimist Club President Mike Fausz said the organization currently has a list of kids who need some help to find something under the tree.
These children traditionally receive a pair of shoes and some other donated gifts.
Fausz emphasized that the requests from families involved typically consist of necessities as opposed to anything too extravagant.
“The parents are a lot of times single parents or could be two parents who may have financial difficulties for one reason or the other and they didn’t have much of a Christmas to look forward to,” Fausz said, “and this is one way that we can give back to the area and the community to make sure that these kids have a good Christmas also.”
The drive properly begins during a fish fry at Outsider the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Those looking to participate can do so by signing on the tree in Outsider or by mailing a donation to P.O. Box 373, Waterloo.
Monroe County EMS is also putting on a Toys for Tots drive, with donations being accepted from 9 a.m. to noon at the Walmart in Waterloo.
Per a recent Facebook post, ambulance personnel will be available outside the store to collect any unwrapped toys for those who are looking to donate.
In Columbia, the police department is once again hosting a Caring for Our Community program to raise money to purchase gifts for needy families in the community.
Columbia Police Chief Jason Donjon said they will be accepting donations through Christmas, with check or cash donations accepted at the Columbia Police Department.
Gifts will later be purchased for those families who reached out, either to be held at the station or delivered.
Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Columbia Police Department at 1020 N. Main Street or the Columbia School District Office at 5 Veterans Parkway. Checks should be made payable to “Columbia Caring for Our Community.”