Charities in need for the holidays

Published 7:02 pm Thursday, November 26, 2009

In the next few weeks, holiday shoppers will hit the stores in droves, trying desperately to find the best deals on gifts for family and friends.

However, local charities are providing ways to make monetary gifts in honor of loved ones, eliminating the need to shop ‘til you drop.

Many organizations also are requesting additional help for the holidays with volunteers, money, food and toys.

ForKids, an organization based in Norfolk that operates Suffolk House, Suffolk’s homeless shelter, is selling Christmas cards, note cards and card inserts to help people make donations in honor of loved ones.

“Folks can pick several ways to make a meaningful gift,” said Serena Amerson, director of development for ForKids.

The organization is selling sets of 10 note cards for $100. The note cards are preprinted with a holiday message that tells the recipient that a gift has been made in their honor to ForKids. In addition, ForKids “gift cards” are sold in $10 increments, and can be placed in Christmas cards to let recipients know of the gift. Finally, blank packaged note cards with artwork created by ForKids children are sold for $20 for a set of five.

“A lot of people are not doing Christmas with their families,” Amerson said. “They’ve decided to help charities.”

Those who would rather purchase toys can help stock the ForKids toy store. About 750 children — all current and recent clients of ForKids — will receive toys through the organization this year, but only if toys are donated.

Parents will be able to purchase the toys by redeeming vouchers they have earned though volunteering at the ForKids facilities or at other organizations throughout the community. “Graduated clients,” those who have recently moved on to independence, also have the opportunity to get toys from the shop.

“Parents can come to the shop and they redeem vouchers for the purchase of these items without expending any more money on their side,” Amerson said. “While we’re providing these families with better tools, they’re still having a really hard time making ends meet, and spending a couple hundred dollars could put them in an unfavorable situation.”

Donors can take toys to the Suffolk House, 400 Finney Ave., or to Booker T. Washington, East Suffolk, Creekside, Mack Benn, Northern Shores, Oakland and Kings Fork recreation centers. Toys taken to recreation centers will be given to Youth Engagement Services (YES), and passed along to Suffolk House. No toys with weapons, including guns, swords or ninjas, will be accepted.

The organization also recently kicked off a fundraising campaign. More information is available at www.homesforkids.org.

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia also needs money, food and volunteers, said Dani Ayers, grants and communications manager for the food bank. Many different situations have combined to make this a particularly difficult year, she said.

“As a result of the economy, as well as some of the local closings like the paper mill in Franklin, top that off with the nor’easter, it’s been a really tough couple of weeks here at the food bank,” Ayers said. “We have seen a huge increase in people needing assistance because of those three reasons.”

Ayers said the storm’s flooding and power outages wiped out many people’s food supply.

“If they were already living check to check and struggling to put food on the table, they come to us saying, ‘I’m back to zero, and I don’t have the funds to stock up.’”

The food bank particularly needs staple items such as canned vegetables, canned meats like tuna and chicken, peanut butter, pasta and pasta sauces. Because of the holidays, turkeys and hams also are in demand, Ayers said.

“As soon as they (turkeys) come in, they go back out,” Ayers said. “They do not last at all here. We really cannot have enough turkeys.”

Those who simply want to give money also are appreciated, Ayers said. Each dollar given to the food bank buys six times the food that dollars spent at the grocery store buy.

“If you want to do a food drive, please do it, but we can do a lot with money,” Ayers said. “We can actually turn every dollar that someone donates to us into six dollars worth of food.”

The food bank also is in need of volunteers to help inspect and sort the food, as well as do clerical work. For more information, visit www.foodbanklinline.org.

Contact information for other local charities:

Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund

P.O. Box 1220

Suffolk, VA 23439

OR hand-deliver to

130 S. Saratoga St.

Suffolk, VA 23434

934-9619

American Red Cross

P.O. Box 129

Suffolk, VA 23439

539-6645

Salvation Army

400 Bank St.

Suffolk, VA 23434

539-5201

United Way

www.unitedwayshr.org.