The holiday season is all about giving — not only to your family and friends, but also to those who need a little extra help.
That's especially true this year, with the economy still struggling to recover and continued high unemployment rates. Oklahoma has suffered less than many other states, but there are plenty of people in financial need, and contributions to some local charities are down this year.
If you can spare money or time, you can make the season brighter for some of your neighbors.
Also, if you need assistance yourself, here's where you can find it.
The Salvation Army
The Angel Tree program gives you the opportunity to provide toys and clothing for a needy child on Christmas morning.
More than 2,000 families have signed up for the program this year, which means gifts are needed for several thousand children, said Heide Brandes, Salvation Army Central Oklahoma spokeswoman.
To participate, select an “angel” from trees at Penn Square and Quail Spring malls. The angel will include a child's name, clothing sizes and toy requests. When you're done buying for the child, simply drop off the gifts at the mall.
The Salvation Army will distribute the gifts to the children's parents Dec. 19.
Gifts also will be given to nursing home patients.
In mid-November, the Salvation Army put out an appeal for winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves and blankets, which are distributed to those who need help keeping warm in the winter months. The winter coat drive includes the “Warmth for Winter” campaign, a joint effort by the Oklahoma County commissioners' office, KFOR-4, the Salvation Army and the South Oklahoma City Rotary Club.
District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan said the stock of coats is low, in part because the NBA lockout prevented the Oklahoma City Thunder from offering reduced ticket prices in exchange for donated coats.
Six hundred coats were available at the beginning of the season, Brandes said; by Dec. 1, only 35 were left. Children's and plus-size coats are hard to find.
“We're going to have the same need all the way through March,” Brandes said. “That's one thing that never goes away here. January and February are our toughest months, not just around Christmas.”
The charity is seeking food items, specifically turkeys and hams to provide families traditional holiday meals.
“Right now our biggest need is meat. We have 2,000 households signed up for Angel Tree. We also provide them with a Christmas dinner box. So we need about 900 hams, chickens and/or turkeys,” Brandes said. “We've had a lot of requests for sporting equipment on our Angel Tree. We've got about 400 angels who haven't been adopted.”
Donations may be dropped off at Salvation Army headquarters, 501 S Harvey Ave.
Of course, it's also easy to deposit money in one of the kettles outside many area retailers. The Salvation Army hopes to bring in $599,768 from its Red Kettle Campaign this year in Canadian, Cleveland and Oklahoma counties.
The Children's Center
Holiday Baby Basics, a program of The Children's Center in Bethany, allows shoppers to help provide for children with complex medical and physical disabilities.
The donation drive began on Thanksgiving and continues through Jan. 1.
To participate, download a “basic needs list” from www.tccokc.org/hbb or print out a registry at Toys R Us, Walmart, Target or Amazon.com.
Desired items range from diapers and lotion to clothing and personal DVD players.
Each donation benefits children and helps stretch the center's resources.
“When people provide Huggies, Pampers or a toy that meets a specific need of a child, we can use the money budgeted for those items for other good purposes,” said Albert Gray, the center's chief executive officer, in a news release.
Items can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at the center's main lobby inside the Donald W. Reynolds Complex, on NW 39 Expressway east of Rockwell Avenue.
For more information, call 789-6711 or go to www.tccokc.org.
The drive is sponsored by The Oklahoman and KWTV-9.
Neighborhood Services Organization
If you are struggling to pay rent or make a mortgage payment, the Neighborhood Services Organization may be able to help.
The nonprofit has funds available through Dec. 31 to assist qualified families with one month of back rent or late mortgage payments.
Financial help does not include fees associated with late payments.
Applicants must live in Oklahoma, Canadian or McClain counties; have an eviction notice or notice of late payment; and pre-qualify through a telephone interview. Call 236-0413, ext. 308.
The organization, which provides transitional housing and low-cost clinics, also is accepting donations to support its programs.
To make a financial contribution, call 236-0413, ext. 302, or send a check to Neighborhood Family Services, 431 SW 11, Oklahoma City, OK 73109.
Sunbeam Family Services
Sunbeam is asking central Oklahomans to “adopt a family” this season.