The holidays are all about giving, but the community has many gifts to give. To find a way to start a tradition of giving to those in need in the region, get involved with one or more of the many organizations and charities that desperately need support in all forms.
Sharon Kish, president of the United Way of Porter County says, “We have families in our own region who are stressed by poverty, job loss or low paying jobs, foreclosure or homelessness, mental or physical illness, who do not have the means to purchase the turkey and trimmings that many of us take for granted. How can we help them? The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana distributes food to local pantries and soup kitchens. The Food Bank solicits food, inventories it and then distributes it to food pantries throughout the region. There are 55 food pantries in Lake County, 13 in Porter County, and 9 in LaPorte County. They all need donations of food during the holidays and all year long. You can organize a food drive at your church or place of business or in your neighborhood and donate it to the Food Bank or your local pantries. All of the organizations need extra volunteers during this time of year to pack and deliver food. The Food Bank is located at 2248 W. 35th Avenue in Gary and their email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The food pantries in your area can be found by dialing 211 and asking for the nearest pantry or on-line at nwi211.com you can enter your zip code and the pantries nearby will be identified.”
Kish continues, “Pantry on the Go is another service of the NWI Food Bank. They pack their truck with food items and distribute to different communities in the region. They are located at the American Legion Post 180, 2703 Jewett Avenue in Highland on December 17th. The Salvation Army always needs help wrapping gifts and providing food to families in need and they can be reached at (219) 762-9191 or email Vicki_Burge@usc.salvationarmy.org. Just look around. There are many opportunities during the holiday season to show your appreciation for your blessings by reaching out to lend a hand to others. We live in a community of very generous and compassionate people. Join your local United Way in “Living United” during this holiday season. You can log on to nwivolunteer.org to find opportunities to volunteer during this holiday season.”
At the Lake Area United Way, President Lou Martinez says, “During the holidays many people look to make the season brighter by giving back to their communities. Lake Area United Way helps by working to place volunteers with local nonprofits or groups needing assistance with holiday projects such as food/clothing/toy drives, Angel Tree donations, or financial giving opportunities.” Finding other ways to volunteer for the Lake Area, Porter County, and LaPorte County United Ways can be found online at the United Way Regional Volunteer Center. This is your one-stop-shop for all of your volunteerism in the community. The website can be found at nwivolunteer.org.
Another organization in need of assistance is TradeWinds, whose mission it is to help individuals with special needs grow to their full potential. TradeWinds is home to training and production operations that are a living testament to what the human spirit can accomplish. Lisa Daugherty, director of marketing and development says, “Aside from any cash donations, which are always very much appreciated, there are a couple of other ways you can donate. First, we have a computer recycling program and we are certified to recycle any business or resident’s computer. This is primarily the tower or laptop and wiring, but we cannot accept any monitors. We have a team of people with disabilities who dismantle them and properly store them. We have a partner called Technology Recyclers who will pay us for the scrap and those dollars go toward paying wages for our client employees. There are also ways people can volunteer their time. We have both adults and children we are serving at the facility, and we also have adults that reside in our group homes and supported living residences and people can come in and participate in activities. We do a lot of arts and crafts and need help facilitating those activities, or people can come in and read a book to the children or adults. It’s a way to spend time and positively influence our residents who thoroughly enjoy visitors. A lot of our residents don’t have family so we love to have volunteers who would choose an adult and send them a Christmas card or a birthday card each year. If someone has a special talent, maybe they play a musical instrument, they can come in and play for the adults in our ADAPT program. Throughout the year we take our adults and kids into the community, to the theater, and we need some extra chaperones sometimes, so we are always looking for people to help. It’s a great opportunity for parents to teach children about generosity.”