‘tis the season to give
‘tis the season to give
By Ramsey Nix
inspired by the “twelve days of christmas,” we’ve compiled 12 ways
to give this holiday season
During the holiday season, the spirit of generosity moves us. Aside from gift exchanges between family and friends, Morgan County residents respond to that spirit through charity and volunteerism. There is no shortage of good causes: the needs in our county are great, as the poverty rate rises along with the national average. Many families lack access to health care, transportation, living wages, affordable housing and sometimes even sufficient clothing and food. There are over 30 non-profit organizations operating in Morgan County, and that number does not include the many church ministries.
1. Give to the Needy
Ringing bells signify the holiday season, but the Salvation Army’s bells symbolize what the season is all about. Those bells ring outside of malls and grocery stores across the country, where volunteers ask shoppers to drop money into their traditional red kettles. Donations provide Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need.
Founded in 1881, the Salvation Army is a tradition, and it provides an example for other grassroots organizations to follow. Locally, the Morgan County Empty Stocking Fund provides food vouchers to needy families, assistance to seniors and toys and clothing to children every Christmas. With help from Morgan County DFCS and the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, organizers determine which families need assistance before they begin collecting donations.
To donate or volunteer for the Morgan County Christmas Stocking Fund, please call (706) 342-1507.
2. Comfort the Sick
If you or anyone else you know has suffered with a debilitating illness, you may feel inspired to help others who are similarly afflicted or to fund treatment research this holiday season. There are foundations committed to raising awareness and funding research for almost every disease: the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the list goes on.
Locally, there is a camp dedicated to comforting children. Located on 500 acres in Rutledge, Camp Twin Lakes is a non-profit organization that offers year-round recreational, therapeutic and educational programs for children facing serious illnesses and other physical, emotional and life challenges. With its network of partners, Camp Twin Lakes provides life-changing experiences for thousands of children each year at its state-of-the-art, fully accessible facility. The promise of a week at camp would be a perfect gift for a sick child.
Camp Twin Lakes relies on volunteer support and donations. For more information, see their Web site at www.camptwinlakes.org or call (404) 231-9887.
3. Welcome the Stranger
Every Christmas, we are reminded of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge in Bethlehem and later fleeing with their newborn son to Egypt. People in many parts of the world still face persecution or unsafe living conditions today. Many of them make their way to the U.S., where they believe in our promise of hope and opportunity.
While there are no official organizations in our region that provide aid or services to refugees or immigrants, Catholic Charities Atlanta, Inc. serves “the most vulnerable and most in need from all walks of life, regardless of religion, origin, race or socio-economic status.” The organization provides refugee resettlement services and aid to immigrants who are struggling to settle in Georgia’s communities.
See www.catholiccharitiesatlanta.org for more information.
Closer to home, the Morgan County Ministerial Transient Fund, sponsored by downtown Madison churches, provide for those who find themselves stranded in Madison and need a meal and/or a place to stay for the night, according to Jim NeSmith, of Madison Baptist Church. Bus tickets are also provided by the Ministerial Transient Fund.
For more information, contact NeSmith at (706) 342-2177.
4. Build Bridges of Peace
With wars raging in the Middle East and a troubled economy at home, it’s easy to forget about those suffering beyond our borders. According to the United Nations 2007 Human Development Report, 2.6 billion people– 40 percent of the world’s population– are living on less than $2 a day. In order to promote peace in our world, we must first address the disparities that divide us.
While world peace seems like a daunting, elusive concept to most, there are some citizens in our region who make it their mission to promote it. Vanessa Carter and Michelle Robinette, co-owners of Mulberry Toys, decided long ago that their business would tithe at least 10 percent of its net profits to the mission work of their employees, local youth groups and churches. “It was important to us as individuals, so we thought it should be important to our business,” says Carter.
Mulberry Toys has sent educational toys to orphanages in Honduras and Lesotho. In addition, they give each customer the opportunity to make a charitable donation to the Make-a-Wish Foundation or Heifer International when they check out at their store in downtown Madison.
5. Bring Warmth to the Cold
Whether bundled in coats, gloves and scarves or huddled around the fire with a cup of hot chocolate, the holidays are a time for warmth. For some residents, coming up with funding to pay the heating bill is too great a financial burden, and they choose to go without.
The Morgan County Benevolence Fund, sponsored by First United Methodist Church, Church of the Advent, Madison Presbyterian Church, Madison Baptist Church and St. James Catholic Church, helps families in need with money for rent, food and medicine, as well as utility bills. "We are seeing a lot of that now with the economy [the way it is]," Jim NeSmith, of Madison Baptist Church, said. The fund also includes a food vouchers program that is sponsored by the Morgan County Baptist Association. Each week, the Morgan County Benevolence Fund provides aid to 10 to 12 families.
To learn more, contact any of these churches.
6. Care for the Children
It’s often been said, “Christmas is for kids.” If that’s the case, the holiday season is the perfect time to commit to help our communities become places where children can thrive. The Georgia Family Connection is a public/private partnership created by the state and the private sector that assists communities in addressing the serious challenges facing Georgia's children and families. Morgan County hosts a Family Connection Collaborative which serves as the local decision-making body, bringing community partners together to develop, implement, and evaluate plans to build a better future for our children.
"Morgan County Family Connection envisions a community where the stability of families and the health, safety and literacy of children are valued; and where community partnerships are restoring hope by embracing a balance of prevention, intervention and advocacy," according to the county's page on the Family Connection Partnership Web site.
To learn more about Family Connection or to locate any of their county collaboratives, see www.gafcp.org or call (706) 343-5813.
7. Unburden the Weary
Every year countless people are affected by natural and man-made disasters. Imagine spending your first Christmas dislocated from your home because it has been washed away by a flood. Or think about the young service men and women separated from their families this time of year.
The American Legion Calvin George Post 37 in Madison sends Christmas cards and care packages to service men and women stationed overseas. The post also promotes the National Commanders Scholarship Fund for children who have lost parents in wars since September 11.
For more information, please contact Post Commander Jim NeSmith at (706) 342-2177.
8. Educate the Youth
A book is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. Stories open up a world of imagination and possibility. This realization led one woman in Morgan County to establish the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, a non-profit that “provides books for local communities to prepare all Georgia preschool children for reading and learning success.”
Approximately 61 percent of low-income families do not have a single piece of reading material suitable for a child, and one-third of Georgia’s children come to school unprepared to learn. Responding to such figures, the Ferst Foundation invites individuals to “adopt a reader.” For $36, one child will receive a book per month for an entire year. The Ferst Foundation now serves 47 counties across the state, including Morgan.
Please see their Web site for opportunities to contribute: www.ferstfoundation.org.
There are also plenty of mentoring and tutoring opportunities for volunteers to help improve educational outcomes in Morgan County. Sheila Tolbert, president of the Morgan County Partnership for Advancing Student Success (MCPASS), is seeking volunteer tutors for Wednesday and Saturday sessions at participating churches. MCPASS was established four years ago to close the achievement gap that exists between black and white students in Morgan County.
For more information, call Tolbert at (706) 474-1294.
9. Shelter the Homeless
On any given night, more than 18,000 people in Georgia have no place to call home. While there are no official homeless shelters in Morgan County, some churches and charitable organizations offer temporary assistance to the homeless. Moreover, citizens have embraced the call to eliminate homelessness by organizing a Habitat for Humanity affiliate.
The concept that grew into Habitat for Humanity International was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial, Christian farming community outside of Americus. Since it was founded in 1976, Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people with safe, decent, affordable shelter.
Habitat for Humanity affiliates are looking for volunteers and monetary and land donations year-round, and you may donate furniture, household items and building supplies to their ReStores located in Greensboro (706) 453-1718 and Eatonton (706) 991-1600. Madison does not have a ReStore, it does host an active affiliate, which can be contacted at (706) 431-6139.
10. Visit the Elderly
Families traditionally gather together for Thanksgiving, Hanukah or Christmas, and the holidays offer an opportunity for the young and old to spend quality time with each other. But many people today move far from home, sometimes leaving aging family members alone.
The Athens Community Council on Aging, a non-profit that aims to maintain and enrich the lives of older persons, serves 12 counties in Northeast Georgia, including Morgan.
To find out about their many outreach programs, see www.athenscommunitycouncilonaging.com.
11. Advocate for the Animals
Dogs bark and cats purr, but they don't have voices to speak for themselves. And, when they are in danger or homeless, these critters don't have the ability to be their own advocates.
There are three organizations in Morgan County that make it their mission to give voice to these, the voiceless: the Humane Society of Morgan County, Georgia Rescue and Rehabilitation and Companion Animal Rescue, Inc. These organizations welcome monetary contributions, as well as donations of time and material (food, blankets, etc.).
Contact the Humane Society of Morgan County at (706) 343-9977 or www.humanesocietyofmorgancounty.org, Georgia Rescue and Rehabilitation at www.garescueandrehab.com or Companion Animal Rescue, Inc. at www.carirescue.com.
12. Feed the Hungry
Food is an integral part of the holiday season. Can you imagine no turkey on Thanksgiving, no eggnog at Christmas? Worse yet, imagine not knowing where your next meal would come from on a daily basis.
This is the reality for almost 13 percent of Georgia’s population, according to the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. Through corporate sponsorships, individual donations and volunteer work, the food bank was able to distribute 4.6 million pounds of surplus food to over 65,000 Northeast Georgians who needed help last year. As demand rises, the food bank expects those numbers to increase.
The Caring Place in Madison receives a portion of its food from the food bank, but it also benefits from postal, church and school food drives. The Caring Place provides a box of food to approximately 80 needy families in Morgan County every week (families are only allowed to visit once per month, unless there is an emergency). The need is rising. “We used to give out turkeys and ham during the holidays, but we can’t afford to anymore,” says volunteer recruiter Bernice Davis. Volunteers, food, and furniture donations are welcome every Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Caring Place, a modular unit in the Wellington complex on Monticello Road.
For more information, call (706) 342-9861.
View an image of this layout HERE.