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Wintertime Charity

My children are yearning for snow. Here on the Jersey Shore, last year was a wash-out with only one small snow storm to speak of. But this is indeed a new year, and I always expect a lot of snow here. And the snow brings with it shovels of opportunities for you to be charitable.

First of all, large snowfalls affect the roads. Sure, the kids get off from school and many adults can work from home. Others just have to miss a day or get to work late. But what about emergency services, like hospitals? Hospital staff must get to work in order to maintain proper care, especially during a weather emergency when emergency rooms often see a spike in cases.

What can you do to help? If you own a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can volunteer to pick up hospital personnel and take them to work. If you live within walking distance of a hospital, you can offer to volunteer while they wait for staff to arrive. You may be able to answer phones, assist with paperwork, or run errands throughout the hospital. Or, if you have a neighbor who is a doctor, nurse, or health care provider, why not head over and help shovel the driveway, so they can get to the hospital quickly?

Bad winter storms not only keep people from getting out, but they force some people to stay in. The elderly and the disabled have no choice in difficult weather but to wait it out at home. If the storm lasts a few days, or happens to also knock out power, that could be devastating for some of these folks. Be sure to check on elderly or disabled neighbors and friends. Call them, or knock on their doors, and help them with whatever they need. You can shovel their walkways, or driveways, so they can get out quickly in an emergency. They may have run out of milk or bread – maybe you can give them some food from your pantry.

Finally, the extreme cold affects no one as much as the homeless and poor. We’ve all read about homeless people who have frozen to death, or deadly fires that were caused by electric heaters placed in low-income homes. If you see someone on the streets during extreme weather, call the local police department to let them know. Usually, during bad storms, the police will bring homeless persons to a shelter, hospital, or even the police station to keep warm.

If the winter weather hasn’t quite made its way to you yet, perhaps you can do a few things now to prepare for when the storm strikes. Why not conduct a blanket, coat, or snow boot drive to help the homeless and the poor in their attempt to stay warm? And, of course, food banks are in desperate need during the winter time, especially now when this difficult economy has created a surge in those requiring food assistance. Any donation, monetary or material, would be most welcome at your local food pantry.

You might even choose to donate blood, the “gift of life,” because there is a jump in car accidents during bad weather, and the need for blood is great. Call your local shelter, food bank, or the county Department of Health and Human Services to find out how you can help.

This coming winter, consider the many ways you can be charitable. It doesn’t take much. After all, charity is really nothing more than reaching out a hand to those in need. And during extreme winter weather, there are a lot of needy, cold hands looking for help.
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