Helping others is the work of the holidays

Many people enjoy giving back to the community during the holiday season. There are plenty of opportunities in the Williamsburg area to help those in need and make the season a joyous time for everyone.

Local schools, churches and other organizations often hold canned food drives to help stock the food pantry at FISH. United Way of Greater Williamsburg, in partnership with the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, will also host a mobile food pantry in December, and volunteers are needed to help distribute fresh food to families in need.

“United Way also facilitates a Christmas Sponsorship program,” says Charvalla West, manager of United Way’s Community Resource Center. “Individuals, companies and groups are asked to sponsor one or more children for Christmas. We provide a shopping wish list as a guide, and those gifts are then given to families to open at Christmastime.”

Many churches and other community groups similarly provide for needy children through the Angel Tree program. The Williamsburg House of Mercy, an outreach mission of St. Bede Catholic Church, helps roughly 250 families every Christmas through its Angel Tree program.

“Each child gets two gifts: one under $30 and one under $50, and children under seven can get a bike instead,” says Shannon D. Woloszynowski, executive director of Williamsburg House of Mercy. “We are the only organization that will take children over 12 — those under 18 and still in school — so we get a lot of the families with both older and younger kids. In addition to our Angel Tree, we do a White Christmas Tree for seniors living in area nursing homes.”

Community members can also adopt a family through Avalon Center for women and children, or donate gift cards so that mothers can shop for special items for their kids.

U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, meanwhile, has several locations in Williamsburg for people to drop off new, unwrapped toys for kids. Local police departments also hold toy drives. Williamsburg Police Department will partner with Walgreens for its second annual “Stuff the Trailer” toy drive in December.

“We think it is very important to give back to the community,” says Williamsburg Police Chief Sean L. Dunn. “Holiday events are a great opportunity for us to build positive relationships with community members.”

The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office will host its 16th Annual “Shop with a Sheriff” on Dec. 9. At least 60 children will be selected to participate. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office hopes to raise enough funds this year to expand its initiative and provide for families in need throughout the entire month of December.

Other ways to give back to the community this season include volunteering to be a bell ringer for the Salvation Army or purchasing an ornament in memory of a loved one to benefit Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg. On Dec. 14, Hospice House will host “Light Up a Life,” a tree decorating and lighting ceremony to honor those who have died.

You can also pick out a special gift for your pet during one of Heritage Humane Society’s fundraising events, the Christmas Bazaar. Shop till you drop during the event, set this year on Dec. 9 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Bruton Parish Hall.

Want to help?

FISH, Inc. (757) 220-9379

Salvation Army (757) 229-6651

United Way of Greater Williamsburg (757) 229-2222

U.S. Marine’s Toys for Tots (757) 949-8164

Shop with a Sheriff (757) 890-4192

Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg (757) 253-1220

Avalon Center (757) 258-5022

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