As I put the gifts that I received for Christmas into their proper places and cleaned up the bits of wrapping paper, I reflected on the wonderful spirit of giving that I noticed in this area over the past few months.
Food was donated, cooked, delivered and served to numerous families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gifts were purchased and wrapped to make sure that foster children, families in shelter and others facing financial challenges had a happy holiday this year. Nearly every newspaper in the area reported on generous donations given to a local food shelf or other charities. Generous donors dropped big bills in the collection kettles and responded to Angel Tree requests. There were drives for Coats for Kids, Heart to Heart and more.
All of these efforts helped ensure that everyone had an opportunity for a warm meal, gifts and the knowledge that we live in a caring community.
But as the decorations get packed into boxes and put on the shelves for the year, I hope that this caring, giving spirit doesn't also get shelved until the next holiday season.
I am fortunate to work and interact with many caring people who find ways to give of their time and resources all year long to make a difference in people's lives and our communities. It is a privilege to see how donations to United Way of Southwest Minnesota go to work all year long and I encourage everyone to take a little time to get involved in some small way, also.
Volunteers are needed in the next few months to assist in a variety of ways at the Free Tax Clinic. Training for volunteers begins right after the first of the year.
Helping children develop financial literacy skills is the primary focus of Junior Achievement. Easy to use curriculum kits provide the tools and information for volunteers who go into classrooms in this area this spring.
Volunteers are the key to successful mentoring or after school programs that help build positive relationships and offer a safe place for children to go when parents aren't home from work yet.
Crisis response programs depend on willing volunteers to step up in times of disaster, to answer a crisis phone line or to help provide respite care. Taking time to read to young children, to listen and to encourage them is a big part of developing skills for school success. There are several ways that volunteers can be involved in that way.
Many local non-profit organizations need volunteer board members who can offer their expertise and knowledge about governance or good financial management.
I encourage you to visit our webpage to learn more about local programs and services and click on the blue VOLUNTEER button to visit the Volunteer Connection data base to find ways that you can get connected to make a difference. The United Way of Southwest Minnesota webpage is at UnitedWaySWMN.org. Or you can simply call us at 507-929-2273. Year-end donations to help make programs like these and much more possible all year long are welcome, also. Thank you!