The Catholic Voice asked representatives of many of the agencies that provide Wish Lists, which begin on Page 5, and asked: what would you do with a $25 donation right now? From warm clothing to Christmas toys, to food, here are some of the ways that $25 would be put to good use at this time of the year:
1. Light up a needy child's Christmas. Through Project Joy Bells, Catholic Charities of the East Bay sends volunteer shoppers out to purchase gifts from a pre-selected child's wish list. The children are from families served by Catholic Charities. Suggested donation for a toy is $20.
2. Quadruple your gift. For every $1 you donate, the Alameda County Food Bank can distribute $4 worth of food to children, seniors and families in need. Gifts are especially welcome in light of the recent cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
3. Newman Hall's Loaves and Fishes ministry is celebrating its 25th year of hospitality to the homeless and hungry in Berkeley. Your gift could provide food for one of the meals — or a jacket for a guest who needs one. (Loaves and Fishes, Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish, 2700 Dwight Way, Berkeley 94704.)
4. Gloves and scarves come to mind for Sister Deanine Medina, CSJ, at A Friendly Place, an Oakland drop-in center for homeless women. "It's so cold out there," said Sister Deanine. Sweatshirts and sweatpants, purchased on sale, will also help keep the women warm.
5. How about a flat of spinach or lettuces for the winter garden at St. Mary's Center in Oakland? The site of the winter shelter, which will be home to 25 senior citizens, is also stockpiling sweatpants and sweatshirts for their guests. When they're on sale, $25 can outfit two people.
6. Fill five bags of groceries. Mercy Brown Bag can fill a bag with 20 pounds of groceries for $5, said Krista Lucchesi, director of the program that helps feed 3,000 senior citizens.
7. Give a lift. Next Step Learning Center students make their way to the West Oakland site, where they learn English skills, by AC transit. A $25 gift would go toward the $80 per month cost of a bus pass for a student who otherwise couldn't come to class.
8. Another day of the hope of and encouragement of a Catholic education for a student in FACE — Family Aid/Catholic Education. FACE partners with families to provide tuition assistance in Catholic elementary and high schools (www.faceofoakland.org).
9. Bay Area Crisis Nursery always needs extra-large (size 5 and 6) good night diapers and pull-ups. This time of year, the gift could also go toward an ethnic doll or a set of Legos for Christmas. See the holiday wish list at www.bacn.info/documents/PDF/HolidayWishList2013.pdf.
10. A nice pair of size 10 men's sneakers, said Amy Vaughan of St. Mary's Center, is a welcome gift. You'd be surprised how many people ask for that size.
11. Put Matthew's Gospel in action — feed the hungry, clothe the naked. — J.C. Orton of Night on the Streets said the $25 would bring comfort to the people the group feeds in Berkeley.
12. While it won't make a down payment on some badly needed real estate — three to five people come to the door of Oakland Catholic Worker seeking shelter, said Tom Webb — it would put some food on the table. About 225 people line up on Thursday for a bag of groceries; five days a week, 25 to 55 are served a hot meal.
13. Gift cards — Target, Safeway, Best Buy, Wal-Mart — give young people, including former foster youths, and their families who are served at Fred Finch Youth Center in Oakland, a chance to get something they want. With the opening of a new residential area, there are some very young people on site. "We're sizing people up for the Santa suit right now," said Leah Jones, director of communication.
14. Be part of Catholic Charities' 1,000-turkey effort to provide holiday meals to families who have been identified by churches and organizations. Donations go to purchasing grocery store gift cards.
15. Monetary donations are the biggest need at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room this holiday season. The Oakland Dining Room serves a midday meal to as many as 800 people.
16. Give (almost) a quarter of tuition at the Lasallian Educational Opportunities (LEO) Center, which provides after-school training for homework help in Oakland. Also, it can cover the tuition for an English learner who takes day classes. (Tuition is $30 a quarter.)
17. Fill a holiday food box. While the Monument Crises Center — with 13,000 active households in its files — provides a monthly food box to families, the plan for the holidays is for a significantly bigger box, with a gift card inside.
18. Give warmth. Pajamas, for children ages 1 to 15, are also welcome at the Monument Crisis Center in Concord.
19. Toilet paper and cleaning supplies are a need at Oakland Elizabeth House, the transitional shelter for women and their children in North Oakland.
20. A cash gift helps fund the work of the East Bay Community Foundation to make sure kids can read and people can find a job, said Giles Miller, director of development.
21. Think shampoo. Family hygiene bags are distributed every three months at the Visitation Center for Women and Children at St. Vincent de Paul in Oakland. (Travel-size kits are available for women who live on the streets to use in the showers at the center, or take to go.)
22. Poultry power! Turkeys and chickens are what Melissa Ponchard, director of the Tri-City Volunteers, would buy. She is looking for 6,000 for Thanksgiving, followed by 6,000 for Christmas. "Something for our families to cook to give thanks," she said.
23. Give the gift of a bed to an ill person. The all-volunteer Contra Costa Interfaith Coalition scours estate sales for furniture for people who have none. A priority is to get people off the floor. The group also buys space heaters to help keep families, particularly those with fragile newborns, warm during the winter.
24. Blessed with an influx of young children, FESCO — the Family Emergency Shelter Coalition — has added enrichment activities for the young guests. Arts and crafts supplies would be bought for the enrichment activities led by an activity leader at two sites.
25. At Sister John Marie's Pantry, the money would go toward paying bills — housing or utility — for those who need help in Fremont, Union City and Newark. The organization, which began as a food pantry, still helps supply food to Abode Services, which helps homeless and low-income people in the area, but its major emphasis is on helping pay the bills, or providing money for temporary shelter, for extremely low income people.
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