Helping out the community after the holidays

Our community would be so much better off if people could take pressure off of ‘the Christmas season’

Our community would be so much better off if people could take pressure off of ‘the Christmas season’ and put more emphasis on ‘the daily condition of our community.’

Around Nov. 1st, people seem to really get into the giving spirit and are eager to donate time, resources and effort into their community. Why is it that after Dec. 25th and the holiday season in general much of these efforts seem to fade?

This issue has become very apparent to me over the last couple of months as I interviewed food banks, numerous non-profit groups, homelessness-assistance initiatives and other community service oriented groups.

The common theme of these interviews has been similar to, “Thank you for your generosity, and please don’t forget about us for the next 11 months.”

I do not have any intention of putting down anyone who volunteers or gives what they can during the holiday season, but I aim to emphasize the importance of continuing these acts year-round.

The fact is that the ‘giving feeling’ that comes with Christmas should resonate all year round.

All year there are parents who abstain from food in order to give their kids enough. There are people who live on the streets year-round, and summer can be just as dangerous as winter.

A great example of this imbalance in support is that most food banks get flooded by volunteers in December that they have to turn some away.

Come March, they are back into the scramble for donations and volunteers, with no backups or excess of hands.

Homeless shelters are flooded with clothing donations in the winter but in July and August, they have just as a great a need. They simply shift from combating frostbite to combating dehydration and heatstroke.

It can be easy to find a group or organization that is helping the community during the Christmas season, but these issues don’t simply go away. Food banks, homeless shelters, women’s outreach groups, parent supports – all of these services are year-round needs that are often not being fulfilled to the levels that they need to be.

In Central Alberta, there are literally hundreds of non-profit organizations that are desperate for help all year. The influx in donations and generosity that comes with the ‘Christmas season’ certainly helps, but it can only go so far.

The sheer availability of the number of non-profit organizations in Central Alberta tells me that people want to help. And giving all year doesn’t have to be on a grand scale – it can be as simple as saving the money from a fancy coffee a few times a week and buying an extra box of granola bars to donate on the next shopping trip.

It can be rounding up your family’s old summer clothes and donating them at a local thrift store or homeless shelter.

It can be purchasing a few extra cans of soup or an extra jar of peanut butter and leaving it in a food bank box.

If you find a cause close to your heart that you notice tends to pop up only mainly in the weeks surrounding Christmas, why not ask how you can continue that work later in the year? For example, many Christmas Bureau groups are headed by other organizations that run initiatives all year.

We live in a province of excess and wealth, but also of many instances of poverty. Every little bit helps. I just think it would be prudent to stretch out the giving a little so that there is enough to go around all year long.

It’s a great feeling to give, and wouldn’t it be nice to feel that way all the time?