Support Our Nonprofits
by Tim Froberg
Christmas is a time of giving.
That doesn’t always mean scurrying around a shopping mall to buy presents for family and friends.
There is more to it.
Christmas giving also means finding room in your budget to help feed, clothe, shelter, and bring some Yuletide cheer to those in need. Donations to charities and nonprofit organizations are in high demand – and you can play Santa Claus by donating a few dollars or purchasing presents to alleviate the financial stress many families are facing during this incredibly difficult year.
You don’t have to spend a dime to take part in holiday giving, however. You can donate your time to help local food pantries with meal preparation, service, and delivery. You can ring bells to help solicit charitable donations, or shop, wrap, and deliver presents. You can stop by the animal shelter and walk a dog, play with cats who need socialization and attention, or assist with cleaning duties.
Whether you choose to give the gift of time or treasure, local nonprofits need your help more than ever these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on many families’ finances, driving up demand for services. Due to health concerns, however, fewer volunteers are available to assist charities with the increased caseload.
“It really has been a year where a lot of people are in need,” said Pat Leigl, social services director for the Salvation Army-Fox Cities. “We’re doing things with fewer volunteers and we’re anticipating an increased number of people we need to serve. There are a lot of challenges this year. It’s not just us. Many nonprofits in our area are anticipating a drop in donations this year due to the pandemic.”
For those who want to volunteer but don’t know how, Volunteer Fox Cites can be of immense help. The organization recently released its 2020 annual Holiday Guide, which details volunteering opportunities for local nonprofits. Website addresses and phone numbers are also provided, along with wish lists of items requested by those in need.
The Holiday Guide is available at www.volunteerfoxcities.org or at various locations in the area.
“It lists everything going on with the nonprofits,” said Susan Vanden Heuvel, executive director of Volunteer Fox Cities. “We work with the nonprofit community to provide them with volunteers to help them meet their mission. However, we also work with more than 50 businesses to help them develop their corporate social responsibility and community engagement programs.
“Usually when the Holiday Guide is posted, we get more than 2,000 click-throughs the first few weeks. By the end of the season in January, we usually have more than 6,000 click-throughs.
“Of our member nonprofits – and we work with more than 100 on a regular basis – more than 76% have ongoing volunteer needs they need fulfilled in order for them to meet their missions.”
Here’s a look at what some local nonprofits are doing to spread Christmas cheer this year. When contacted, a majority expressed a need for volunteer help during the holidays. With proper social distancing measures and a bit of common sense, you can do your part to help those in need this holiday season.
Salvation Army-Fox Cities
Salvation Army-Fox Cities recently distributed coats for local children through its annual Coats for Kids campaign and has turned its attention toward Christmas programs such as Adopt-A -Family, Toys for Tots and Red Kettle.
“We’ve been helping about 1,500 families per year, so we’re anticipating about 2,000 families this year for our holiday programs,” said Leigl.
The Adopt-A-Family program matches community members with local families struggling financially. Parents or guardians of qualifying households provide a list of gift ideas for each child. The suggested spending range is $50 to $75 per child. Grocery store gift cards of $50 can also be donated to help pay for the family’s holiday meal.
Salvation Army-Fox Cities coordinates the local campaign for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, which has distributed more than 512 million toys since its inception in 1947. In the Appleton area last year, the program gave 17,143 toys to 4,280 children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them Christmas presents.
Families interested in signing up for this year’s Toys for Tots program must register online by Dec. 3.
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle drive is a national effort to collect money to assist those in need. Due to challenges presented by the pandemic – including social distancing and the handling of paper money – there will be nine fewer kettle sites in the Fox Cities this holiday season.
This year’s Red Kettle drive started in September – earlier than usual – because the nonprofit anticipates a greater need among residents.
Salvation Army-Fox Cities will also distribute food baskets to ensure community residents in need enjoy a nice holiday meal.
“All our Christmas programs will continue,” Leigl said. “We may not have as much to give as in years past. So many people have been laid off and fewer people are shopping. We’re anticipating an increased amount of people we’re going to need to serve and fewer donations this year.”
For more information on all holiday programs or volunteering opportunities, call 920-734-3324 or go to www.safoxcities.
St. Joseph Food Program
St. Joseph’s main holiday event is its Thanksgiving meal, but it also participates in Community Christmas – a holiday meal for the less fortunate. St. Joseph provides food boxes of nonperishable items for the meal, which is headed up by Culver’s Restaurant.
The nonprofit works diligently year-round to feed the hungry. Its food pantry is open from 9 to 11 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as from 5 to 6 p.m. each Monday evening. Those who register for assistance can pick up food items like milk, eggs, and cheese, as well as household items including diapers.
Since its launch in 1982, St. Joseph Food Program has distributed more than 30 tons of fresh food weekly. The program is funded by cash and food donations from individuals, churches, businesses, and foundations. Go to stjoesfoodprogram.org, or call 734-9594 for more information.
Boys and Girls’ Brigade
The Brigade – a youth development organization – will do its part to help families in need in the Neenah-Menasha area by continuing its annual Christmas Giving program.
The program provides clothing and gifts for families referred by local health and human service departments, schools, churches, and youth groups.
Last year, the program assisted 410 families and 1,083 children in Neenah-Menasha. The program uses monetary donations to purchase last-minute items on a child’s Christmas wish list.
“It’s a great program and it takes the whole community to put it together,” said David Weiss, development director for Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade. “We’ve had to change a few things up to protect our volunteers and families that will be receiving the gifts. Normally we have people in the community help deliver the gifts and wish the families a Merry Christmas. This year, we’re going to have the families stop by and pick them up, socially distanced.”
The Brigade will also sponsor its popular Christmas wreath sale, which kicks off the first week of December.
For more information on the Brigade, call 920-725-8992 or go to bgbrigade.com.
The Family Radio Network
The Family consists of four Wisconsin radio stations, including WEMI-FM (91.9) in Appleton. The network has a contemporary Christian format and was founded in 1969.
The Family will continue to help people in need in the Fox Cites through its Christmas Blessing fundraiser. Launched last year, the program raised $15,750 for grocery store gift cards and Christmas trees for 95 families in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.
Station listeners had a huge role in the project, responding to The Family’s requests for donations to purchase the gift cards. All donations were accepted, but the station asked for a $100 per pledge and the results were outstanding.
The family also partnered with SOAR Fox Cities in Appleton – along with charitable organizations in Green Bay, Mosinee, and Sheboygan – to distribute the gift cards. The trees were courtesy of Heeg Trucking.
“Last year was insane,” said John Holst, promotions director for the Family Radio Network. “Initially, we were hoping to raise about $5,000 and we exceeded that almost immediately. It was awesome to see the generosity from our listeners and we’re excited to do it again.”
For more information on The Family, call 800-236-9364 or go to thefamily.net.
Loaves and Fishes of Fox Valley
The organization is celebrating its 25th year of working to feed the hungry. In previous years, meals were served in the organization’s dining room, but that has been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. Hot meals are now served to Fox Valley residents via drive-through from 5 to 6 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Loaves and Fishes parking lot, 213 E. Wisconsin Avenue.
Loaves and Fishes traditionally offers a Christmas meal and will likely have one again this year, but the date hasn’t yet been finalized.
Volunteer coordinator Sue Danreiter said volunteers are needed to help with the holiday meal. For more information, go to loavesandfishesfvg.org or call 920-205-6900.
Freedom Center Food Pantry
Located at 1110 Oneida Street in Appleton, Freedom Center Food Pantry has served the area for 11 years. It provides boxed food items like meat, cereal, and fresh produce on a pickup basis from 2:45 to 6 p.m. every other Wednesday.
“We typically serve in the low 200s,” said pantry director Jo Vandermause. “We’re not a meal to go. We do boxed food for small to medium-sized families. We need volunteers to help pack the food up and lift and load them into cars. In past year, people could come in and shop for the food, but due to Covid-19, we’ve had to switch to boxed food.”
To volunteer or for more information, call 920-412-7582 or go to freedom-from-hunger.org.
The Fox Valley Humane Association
The Fox Valley Humane Association has no special Christmas-themed fundraisers planned, but the nonprofit can provide joyful Christmas presents to families and individuals with dog and cat adoptions.
“Any time of the year is a good time to find a new friend, but we do have people who come in this time of year who want to get a pet for their elderly parents or relatives as a Christmas gift,” said Vicki Prey, the FVHA executive director. “And it is a wonderful present.”
Due to a high cat population in the area, the shelter is waiving adoption fees for felines to help them find good homes this holiday season.
The shelter held a well-attended open house on Christmas day last year and would like to repeat the event in 2020, but Prey isn’t sure whether it will happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It went over like gangbusters last year and people are requesting that we do it again,” she said. “But a lot depends on COVID-19 and where we’re at around Christmas. It may be a last-minute decision. It’s a chance for the public to come in and spend time with the animals and see what we’re all about.”
Go to foxvalleypets.org or call 920-733-1717 for more info.