Holiday volunteering offers many gifts

By SARAH HASSE

As the fall semester winds down, students may be wondering what to do with all the extra time and energy they’ll have when school lets out. One possibility is to help people in the Milwaukee area who may be less fortunate.

Education takes many forms beyond the classroom. Volunteering may help students realize the value of their college experience and allow them to share a little of themselves with the community.

Some kinds of volunteering may be a bit too ambitious for the holiday break, while others may take up just the right amount of time. But when school is out and there’s time to spare, it’s the perfect opportunity to get involved. Volunteering can be very self-gratifying with the added benefit of helping others.

“I do it because it’s what I love to do, and even if I can just lure one kid away from the computer/tv/video game, I’m a happier woman than I was before I did,” said Anna Stone, a Mount Mary English graduate student who volunteers her time teaching hoop dance at Fairveiw Elementary and Northeast Wisconsin Montessori Charter Schools.

Be Neighborly

As the harsh winter of Wisconsin sets in and snow season is upon us, being neighborly and helping out with snow removal goes a long way. Linda Kraft, a resident of West Allis, helps her neighbors clear snow because she knows they will do the same for her.

“I want to help my neighbors because it’s the right thing to do. They are always so kind and most of the time [they] beat me to cleaning the front sidewalk! I just like being neighborly,” Kraft said.

She has cleared her neighbor’s snow several times when her neighbor was ill and her husband was out of the state. Creating a support system with neighbors can help the people in your community survive what can be a very cruel Wisconsin winter.

Help companion animals living in a shelter

Do you sew or knit? Dogs and cats would love a new blanket to curl up in. Cat blankets sizes 30×26 and dog blankets any size larger are welcomed by the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha, located at 701 Northview Rd. in Waukesha.

On-site volunteers are also welcome. Sara Falk, volunteer coordinator for HAWS, said volunteers need to attend three to four hours of training and commit to a minimum of three hours a month.

Pets may need safe place to stay if they become homeless. The Wisconsin Humane Society, located at located at 4500 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee, has joined forces with Sojourner Family Peace Center to form Safe Haven. Certified foster parents can offer a home to an animal for up to 60 days. By doing so, domestic violence victims are able to know their pets are in a safe place when they relocate.

“Thousands of people have given their time and talents to our organization. They come from all walks of life and help daily to fulfill our mission. There’s something very rewarding about spending time amongst people who share your commitment to animal welfare,” Falk said.

Create a Drive

Children reveal joy at toy drive for children of fallen police officers in New England. Photo By SARAH HASSE

During the holiday season, toy, book, clothing, food and numerous other drives are in full swing.

To get involved, one option is to contact local business owners to help host the drives and volunteer to work at a drop-off sight. Possible drive sites include local coffee shops, gas stations, bookstores or restaurants.

Picking a site in a mall may generate more drop-offs since people are already out shopping. Choosing a place that is locally or privately owned, or management operated, may help eliminate corporate chain approval.

Consider organizing a drive for the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee. Its website, chw.org, details how a drive is approved. Toys, craft and party supplies, and numerous other things for children are needed.

“When I was in hospital with my broken arm my favorite thing was Playstation 3 in my room,” said Cody Holmes, 8. Even with a casted arm he learned to play with one hand.

Toys help pass time for children who are staying in the hospital and Children’s offers what they might not play with otherwise.

Help families in need

The Social Development Commission aids thousands of local families by helping Milwaukee families who live in poverty through human sources programs. Continuous drives for hygiene items are needed for gift baskets they put together.

Volunteers are needed for tutoring, clerical work, or for help at events.

In 2010 Milwaukee was ranked in the census as being the fourth poorest city in the nation. Help SDC fight the poverty statistics.

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