I’m writing this two weeks before Christmas, in the middle of the Season of Giving. New solicitations arriving in the mail every day. Lots of emails and Facebook posts looking for funding. Pitches over the phone and an opportunity to give on the sidewalk or in Starbucks.
But you are reading this in January and the Season of Giving is over. Santa is no longer ringing his bell and the reindeer are back freezing their butts off in their North Pole stalls.
The problem is that the sick and the hungry are still sick and hungry. And they can’t afford to wait until the next Season of Giving.
Many of us have already spent the allotment of funds we put aside for charity but fortunately there are many other ways to contribute.
We can volunteer our time for instance. There are many charitable organizations in Bellingham and they all depend on volunteers to keep them up and humming.
One of my favorites is the Food Bank: we have an extremely successful one here in Bellingham. I was there this week and the line went out into the parking lot and apparently that continued until closing.
It was a typical Wednesday and 1034 were served, 107 of whom said they were homeless.
There are lots of locals who are there to serve and some of those people need some assistance as well and get to take some food home. Heather Dalberg began relying on the Food Bank when her family went through a rough patch.
She turned things around and has a great job in the Music Department at Western Washington University. So now she volunteers at the Food Bank and is planting a special garden knowing well what people who line up for food every week like to take home.
No garden! Not to worry. People need warm, dry clothing and there are many places in town that make it very easy to drop off a box. My system is to go through my closet and drawers and pull out anything that I haven’t worn in a year.
I prefer giving my clothing to local organizations, like the Lighthouse Mission, as opposed to some of the big national organizations. Then the clothes are going to be worn locally and put right to good use, as opposed to being packaged to be sold elsewhere in the future. The item you deliver that day could be helping to keep someone warm and dry that same night.
There are always opportunities for random acts of kindness. Recently, in Los Angeles, a Hispanic woman was using a leaf blower. I hate those things. In my very crude Spanish I explained to her that “la machina es muy peligro” and she should at least use a mask. Her boss was nearby and he agreed and grabbed a mask for her out of his truck.
You can visit the sick or elderly in the hospital or at a retirement home. There are programs in most communities, often through schools and churches, that take school kids to visit the elderly and it’s wonderful to see how healthy this is for all ages.
Recently, when my mother was in Urgent Care for a few days, she had a steady stream of visitors. The woman in the next bed had none. The problem with lonely people is that it’s hard to identify them.
Oprah has started a program urging people to say “hello” to strangers. I make a point of saying hello to almost everyone I pass. That works really well in Bellingham, where people usually make eye contact and share a smile as they pass.
In Los Angeles, it doesn’t always go over so well. You get some interesting looks from people who find this totally unexpected. Often, they are pleasantly surprised. Some people seem so taken aback that I worry that I might give someone a heart attack.
Not to worry—I will visit them in the hospital!
But maybe you are People Shy and not a schmoozer like me. In that case, you can visit any one of a number of animal shelters and walk a dog, pet a cat, or even exercise a horse.
Little things mean a lot, and being a nice person is never out of season!
Places to volunteer in Whatcom County
There are many volunteer opportunities in Whatcom County. We found a great website that helps you find a volunteer program that is right for you called volunteermatch.org. We encourage you to visit their site. Here are a few of the many organizations that we found through this site that can use volunteers:
Volunteer to help elders for the activities you enjoy, on a schedule that works best for you.
Grooming and Handling the Chincoteague ponies. Everyone welcome.
Contact Gale Park Frederick, (360) 671-8338
2595 Jensen Road Bellingham,WA 98226
Mentor low income girls in Whatcom County
Girls in low income neighborhoods are sometimes left out of activities like Girl Scouts. You can help as we build community based Girl Scout opportunities at schools, community centers and faith based sites. A few caring adults in a community can have an incredible impact on offering tools, resources and new opportunities for girls. We have the materials, the training, Whatcom
Contact LeeAnn Bristol 800-767-6845
with Sean Humphrey House
Heighten your culinary skills while preparing dinner for 6 residents. Food and recipes provided. Background check, 2-Step TB test and Food Handler’s Permit required.
Sean Humphrey House
1630 H Street Bellingham, WA 98225
Contact Jeanette Campagna (360) 733-5543
Fostering takes time and effort but the rewards are tremendous. Fostering can be an ideal way to enjoy the companionship of a dog while waiting for” the right one” to come along! We pay the food, veterinary and other expenses; you provide the TLC.
Contact Angela Smithson 360-671-7445
Hope House is a multi-service center where willing volunteers help to distribute clothing, household goods, toiletries, diapers and emergency food, etc.-free of charge- to those in need.
207 Kentucky Street Bellingham, WA 98225
Contact Jeralyn Heil (360) 676-2164
No time to volunteer? Not to worry- you can always try Oprah’s program and say hello to strangers or find ways to do random acts of kindness.