How to give back for the holidays

There is no better time to give than the holidays.

My momma has always instilled the notion in me that giving is better than receiving and now that Christmas is finally here- it’s the perfect time to reflect, give, and be thankful for the happiness in your life. There are numerous ways to give back within the community this holiday season.

Donating time, food, or money to the Greater Berks Food Bank is a great way to help the hungry. According to their website, 13 percent of the population of Berks County and 12 percent of the population of Schuylkill County (71,400 total people) live in poverty and face hunger issues. The food banks provide free food to those who qualify.

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Last week, I attended the community meal served by local Girl Scout troops in Birdsboro. The girls served the meal and also sang holiday songs while the food bank was open.

Tables and tables and tables of food were provided, 100 percent of the food was provided through donations.

Another way to (literally) donate is to give blood. I last donated at the Angela Hohl Blood Drive hosted at Daniel Boone High School on Dec. 17. This is the largest one-day blood drive Miller-Keystone Blood Center hosts. Seeing the response from the community and school was inspiring. Much like the students at Daniel Boone, I started donating blood in high school. It only takes around an hour to donate, but each donation can provide three people with blood. Currently, the center is in need of all blood types, platelet and ab plasma donations. Call Miller-Keystone at 800-223-6667 to schedule your next appointment.

If you love animals, the Animal Rescue League of Berks County might be the place you want to spend your time. The ARL is located at 58 Kennel Rd., Birdsboro, and are always looking for volunteers. Dog walkers and cat socializers are welcome to come in 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to volunteer.

Fostering a pet is also a superb way to help the animals. Through the ARL’s Grey Muzzle Foster Program, older pets or ones with special care requirements are placed with a foster parent. Applications are available at the ARL or online. With Grey Muzzle, the foster family is only responsible for providing food, toys and love for the pet, as the ARL pays for all vet care.

Local opportunities are also available through United Way. There is the Adult One-on-One Program where volunteers can be matched with a resident of the Berks County Jail System. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age, complete a training, clearance, orientation program and commit to one visit per week. The idea is to provide a positive change in the inmates life through friendship, guidance and support. The program is currently looking for volunteers from ages 18 to 54.

The “Be the ME in MEntor” program provides mentors want to help a teen graduate from high school or college. The mentor is required to be their coach, voice of encouragement and guide to help them realize and achieve their academic goals. The program is currently looking for volunteers from ages 26 to 55.

Visit uwberks.org to find more information and opportunities.

Give back to the community this holiday season, but also enjoy your time with your loved ones this holiday season.

If you do volunteer during the holidays (or even throughout the year) send a photo and brief description of how you help in Berks County and you can be featured in an upcoming edition of The Southern Berks News! Email any submission to me at ethiel@berksmontnews.com.

Stay safe this holiday season!

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.