I don’t have to tell you how stressful things can during the holidays. It’s the very reason people get so annoyed when Christmas commercials appear before Thanksgiving.
Things can get especially overwhelming if you’re down on your luck, money is tight, and you don’t know how you’re going to make the holidays happen for your kiddos.
Thankfully, the holidays also happen to bring out the best in people. That means there are always generous people out there willing to help those who have fallen on hard times at Christmas.
If you need help this year, here’s where to find it.
• The Western New York Holiday Partnership. This is an amazing and far-reaching program, one that’s easy to access and easy to use, thanks to its affiliation with 2-1-1WNY.
The Buffalo News, Wegmans and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program teams up with 24 non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army, Niagara Community Action, the Hamburg Youth Bureau and the Olmsted Center for Sight to make this sweeping project happen.
Families who are eligible for SNAP (formerly called food stamps) can sign up to receive toys and gifts for their children ages 12 and younger.
Applications are being taken through Dec. 7. To apply, call 2-1-1 and they’ll direct you to your most convenient application location.
If you’d like to donate to the cause, you can bring a new, unwrapped toy downtown to our lobby at The Buffalo News, 1 News Plaza, and put it under our giant Christmas tree. There are dozens of other donation sites scattered across Western New York as well, including the Toys for Tots bins you see all over.
• St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, 325 Walden Ave. This place is amazing. They get zero funding from the Diocese of Buffalo or the government, yet they help more people more meaningfully than any charitable organization I’m aware of.
St. Luke’s offers gifts for children 18 and younger, hot meals, food, stockings and Christmas trees. If you need help, leave a message on the main line, 894-4476 and someone will get back to you. If you’re interested in volunteering (and it’s a very worthy organization!) you can adopt a family or donate money, time or supplies.
• Your house of worship, or one in your neighborhood. Religious meeting places quietly meet needs in their communities year round, and they tend to step it up during the winter holidays.
In North Tonawanda, for example, five churches band together for a really cool project called Box of Hope. Box of Hope volunteers deliver boxes to families in need which include presents for all children up to 18 years old, groceries, and gift cards for parents. That is some incredible generosity.
If you have children in the North Tonawanda school district, you can request help by calling your child’s school or visiting OpenABoxOfHope.org. You can volunteer your help on the same website.
Similar acts of generosity will play out all across Western New York this holiday season. You don’t have to be a member of a particular house of worship in your community to ask for help.