Oklahomans are never short on compassion and our giving spirit always shines bright. Even with the busyness of the holidays, the outpouring to those in need is at its highest this time of year. What many call the Oklahoma Standard has been handed down with each generation, whether by necessity when faced with tragedy or simply inspired by others. Here are 10 ways your family can continue the tradition.
1. Participate in a new Oklahoma City Animal Shelter program.
Kids for OKC Animals is a community engagement program for kids up to age 18 interested in helping animals in need. Members of the program pledge to complete one service project a year as well as promise to be respectful and kind to all animals and share their experience with others. Projects can be completed on your own schedule but OKC Animal Welfare asks that you let them know your plans so they can help in any way they can. Host a donation drive to collect needed items from the shelter’s wish list, host an event to raise money and awareness for animals in need, make cat toys for pets awaiting adoption or volunteer to help with animal care, administration tasks or special events. All ages are welcome, but volunteers under 18 cannot handle animals and must be accompanied by a guardian at all times. Another way to help is to become a foster family for mommy animals with babies or infant animals without moms in need of extra care. To learn more about the Kids of OKC Animals program, visit www.okc.gov/animalwelfare or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Donate your birthday or Christmas gifts to ServeMoore.
ServeMoore formed out of the rubble created by the May 20, 2013 tornado. Because of the massive storm and its damage, the city of Moore and its residents were again faced with a massive job to clean up the debris. Many were eager to help. In response, a few church leaders decided to create an avenue to connect those in need with those willing and able to help. Since then, ServeMoore continues to help communities in Central Oklahoma facing natural disasters as well as community renewal and non-profit collaboration. ServeMoore offers a unique Donate Your Birthday platform where family and friends can contribute in your honor in lieu of, or in addition, to traditional party gifts. They also welcome volunteers of all ages but feel many of their projects are best suited for ages 10 and up. While opportunities for kids are limited due to safety, young members of the family can help in the community garden and with special projects like painting fire hydrants. Visit www.servemoore.com to get connected today.
3. Donate coats, hats and gloves to Luggage with Love, a new non-profit serving foster families.
Luggage with Love is a brand new organization that started in October. The organization offers free clothing and supplies for new foster/adoptive placements in Cleveland County and is ready to fill their shelves with new or gently-used items for kids in need. Foster kids often have very few personal belongings. As the winter brings cool temperatures, the need for the proper gear will increase. Shop for brand new supplies or pack up your outgrown (but in good condition) winter gear then contact them at 405-613-9518 or by email at email@example.com. Size 8 and up are most in need as well as new socks and underwear. Get connected at www.luggagewithlove-ok.org.
4. Bless babies in need with life sustaining donations to Infant Crisis Services.
Infant Crisis Services began as a Sunday school service project because the founders believed no baby should go hungry. And the community agreed. Volunteers have been supporting the organization for more than 30 years. We all know babies have a lengthy list of things they need to thrive. Round up much-needed items like diapers and formula as well as new or gently used toys, books and coats and deliver them to 4224 N. Lincoln Blvd. Or, consider getting involved with their micro-volunteering program where families can make a big impact from home and on their own time. Knit, crochet or sew hats and blankets for babies and toddlers or assemble Project-to-go packs. Your family gathers a few important items into an easy-to-pass-along pack that is sure to bless a baby or toddler in need. The Thanksgiving Meals and Holiday Gift packs are a great way to help this time of year. Details about these projects can be found at www.infantcrisis.org/volunteer.
5. Transform the lives of children around the world with Operation Christmas Child.
Since 1993, every gift-filled shoebox with Operation Christmas Child has shared a powerful message, transforming the lives of children and their families around the world. Samaritian’s Purse uses the treasures and personal letters inside to communicate with millions of children in more than 150 countries that someone cares for them. Together, your family can assemble one or more shoeboxes filled with gifts, hygiene items, school supplies and a personal note and photo. Then, take your box to one of the more than 4,000 drop-off locations across the U.S. during National Collection Week, Nov. 16-23. A list of local drop-off locations can be found out www.samaritanspurse.org.
6. Make a difference in the lives of boys at White Fields.
White Fields is a long-term boys’ home for children ages 8-18 who have experienced severe abuse and neglect. These boys have typically been in several foster and group homes. White Fields’ goal is to be their last stop and a place to call home, offering varying levels of therapeutic care. Volunteers can aid in the restorative care happening at White Fields in many ways. Craft a Welcome Home basket filled with hygiene items, stuffed animals, small toys like LEGOs and coloring books, one sports ball and twin-size bedding including sheets, mattress protectors and a pillow. Young volunteers accompanied by an adult can spend a day or more helping with campus beautification. Volunteers also are needed at a special holiday event, during recreational activities or to host a donation drive to collect much-needed items. All volunteers interested can call or email 302-5123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Spread hope at the Hope Center of Edmond.
Each week more than 200 volunteers rotate shifts and assist staff at the Hope Center of Edmond, which acts as a central agency meeting the basic needs of people in the Edmond community including food, clothing, utility assistance and prenatal care for uninsured women. This vast network of churches and community organizations needs a lot of help. Volunteers help stock the pantry shelves, sort incoming donations, greet clients, answer phones calls and more. Oklahomans are especially generous during the holiday season which means the Hope Center needs extra hands to handle all the donations. Individuals, families, groups, clubs, businesses and school groups are all welcome to lend a hand, as long as they are at least 10 years old. Children under 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Opportunities are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Sign up at www.hopecenterofedmond.com/volunteer.
8. Ring in the season at The Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma.
November and December are very busy months for The Salvation Army which means there are plenty of opportunities for families to get involved. Sign up to help with the Thanksgiving Day festivities at The Salvation Army Chesapeake Energy Center of Hope or donate a turkey or entire Thanksgiving feast toward the community meal. You know the season has officially arrived once you see that bright red pot and hear the bell ringing. Families can sign up to participate as a bell ringer or adopt a kettle between Nov. 20 and Dec. 24.
Another option is to stop by Penn Square Mall or Quail Springs Mall and adopt an angel from the Angel Tree from Nov. 12 to Dec. 12. The tree is filled with Christmas requests from kids in need and you can purchase a gift for them. You can also help deliver those gifts from Dec. 15 to 18. Kids ages 13 and up accompanied by a guardian can help with the deliveries. Or, your family can organize a toy drive at your local school, business or church group. Toy drive donations need to be dropped off by Dec. 10 to deliver to kids by Christmas. For year-round opportunities or more information regarding these volunteer opportunities, please contact Liz Banks at 246-1107 or email@example.com.
9. Lace up your sneakers for sick and injured kids.
Children’s Hospital Foundation’s sole focus is to advance pediatric research and specialized clinical care for Oklahoma kids. Year-round, their calendar is jam packed with fun events aimed at supporting their vital calling. At 7 p.m. Nov. 12, families can lace up their sneakers and put on their best neon for a sprint in the “Keep Glowing” Soonerthon Glow Run. All are welcome, from the serious runner to families. For $25, a child and their parent can test their speed in the one-mile fun run while helping our state’s sickest kids. There is even a couch participant option for those who simply want to champion the cause. Before heading out to run, tune into KXY on Nov. 5 and 6 for the KXY Loves Kids Radiothon. Hear amazing stories of hope and make a pledge to the KXY Loves Kids Club. For other fun ways to support Children’s Hospital Foundation, check out www.okchf.org/events/calendar.
10. Spread the joy of holiday season with foster families at the Circle of Care Christmas Parties.
Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care for Children and Youth hosts several Christmas parties for foster families in the Oklahoma City area. The parties aim to refresh and renew the whole family so they can continue to care for the children in their care. Local churches and others in the community fulfill the families’ wish lists for gifts and essentials for a special holiday meal. Circle of Care collects gifts not only for the kids but the foster parents themselves. Gift cards for date nights are always appreciated, offering these generous parents an important evening to refuel as needed. Volunteers are needed to help sort and prepare donations as well as prepare for a variety of festivities. The parties happen in the first week of December but the days leading up are when the most help is needed. Kids accompanied by a guardian are welcome to volunteer. Visit www.circleofcare.org or call 463-6626 to find out the many ways your family can bless Oklahoma City foster families.