Next week, Alaskans will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and loved ones. This is a time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have — and also an excellent time to help those who are not privileged to be in the same position. Whether you’re able to contribute money, time or material goods, here are a few ways you can help ensure others in our community also have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.
1. Give food
Nonprofit groups that help address food needs are always in need of donations, and the holidays are a time when that need is acute. As part of its #GiveHealthy initiative, the Food Bank of Alaska is trying to reach 2,000 pounds of donated food by Friday, Nov. 16. The Food Bank serves not only the Anchorage area, but also remote communities across Alaska, so donations can reach far beyond our backyard. Additionally, the Food Bank accepts some donations unique to Alaska: According to the organization’s website, it “welcomes gifts of moose, caribou, deer and sheep meat, as well as salmon and halibut,” so long as the donations are commercially processed.
2. Give money
Many worthwhile groups in the Anchorage area devote services to the less fortunate, and donating to them is one of the best, most direct ways to help neighbors in need. You can give a targeted donation to a group that serves a particular need, or you can give to an umbrella agency such as United Way of Anchorage, which supports a host of member agencies that provide services locally. Donating to the United Way is one of the easiest ways to ensure that money you give will be used locally and have benefits close to home. Donations to the group or its member agencies may not provide the instant gratification of handing a dollar bill to someone who approaches you in a parking lot, but it’s a far better way to ensure the money helps those who are in greatest need.
3. Give time
One of the most valuable ways to donate to your charity of choice is by giving of yourself — contributing volunteer hours to an organization you support. We often think we don’t have enough time to volunteer, but most nonprofit groups are happy to have volunteers for even a single hour at a time, and for many, volunteer hours are the area of most critical need in fulfilling their mission. All kinds of volunteer opportunities abound, from food-based groups and homeless services nonprofits to groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Red Cross. You can find a clearinghouse of opportunities online at the VolunteerMatch website.
4. Give blood
Alaska and the U.S. are in the midst of a blood shortage, and donations literally save lives. The Blood Bank of Alaska is hosting near-daily mobile blood drives at locations across Southcentral Alaska, in addition to taking donations at its two Anchorage centers. Make a date with a friend or family member to go and donate together as a new holiday tradition. Accident victims and surgery patients will thank you. It is gratifying, after tragedies, to see community members line up around the block to give blood, but it shouldn’t take a mass casualty incident to remind us of the need for blood. Set a calendar reminder; you can donate multiple times per year.
5. Give clothes or other items
Organizations that help Alaskans in need, particularly those experiencing homelessness, can almost always use donations of clothing. Groups such as Covenant House and Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis accept new and gently used clothing and other in-kind donations, and groups such as The Arc of Anchorage have drop-off locations for used clothing that help fund their programs.
There are many ways to help neighbors and community members in need during the holiday season. Whatever your level of ability to give, everything you contribute helps make our city and state a better place. As the holidays approach, that’s the greatest gift we can give to one another.
The views expressed here are those of the Anchorage Daily News, as expressed by its editorial board, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. Current editorial board members are Ryan Binkley, Andy Pennington, Julia O’Malley, Tom Hewitt and Andrew Jensen. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.