Charities ready for season

ALBANY, Ga. -- As the holidays draw near, local nonprofit organizations are hoping this season will be one of giving back.

Doug McClure of The Salvation Army said for the fourth year the organization will be partnering with the Marine Corps and Toys for Tots of Southwest Georgia to provide Christmas toys to needy families in the area.

This year McClure said the organization is processing 800 applications for toys that will be distributed to families with children 12 years old and younger.

Last year the program gave Christmas gifts to 1,700 children in Albany.

"We are also going to be bringing food baskets to seniors in the community," said McClure. "With the economic times, we try to make it as easy as possible for our families and seniors and are grateful to our donors who help provide the means to make this happen."

The Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign will officially launch Nov. 19, and officials say the almost 100-year-old program is a great way for Christmas shoppers to donate.

McClure said Albany's red kettles will not have the high-tech option of allowing donors to donate through debit or credit, but those who carry mainly plastic can still donate by going to www.onlineredkettle.org and clicking "Find a kettle" and searching for the one in Albany.

"The online Red Kettle program is gaining more and more traction every year," said McClure. "People can donate however much they want online."

Salvation Army officials say that even those short on cash will have other ways to give during the holiday season.

McClure said the Salvation Army is always looking for volunteer bell ringers during the Red Kettle campaign, and those who have a few hours to spare this season can donate their time for a good cause.

"We have a six-day-a-week program for volunteer bell ringer and individuals, families or groups can sign up to ring bells," he said. "It is a great way to show people what the true meaning of Christmas is about."

The Salvation Army is trying to boost its volunteer bell ringers this year and encourages anyone who would like to volunteer their time to call the Salvation Army office (229) 435-1428 for more information.

Case managers at Faith Community Outreach Center said they are still taking donations for their "Christmas in November" drive to help the needy in the community.

Case Manager Monica Daniels said this will be the second year the center will be conducting the drive and said they hope to replicate the success of last year's event.

"Last year was the first year for the drive, and it started out as a blanket drive and it expanded because people wanted to donate other items," said the case manager.

The center is asking for blankets, hats, socks, gloves and personal hygiene items like washcloths, soap and deodorant that will be distributed to the needy in the community to help prepare for the cold winter months.

"We are requesting that all items be new so that we can gift wrap them for those who will be receiving donations," said Daniels.

Donated items can be dropped off at the center's location at 425 W. Society Ave. before Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Officials with The American Red Cross said they are offering the community the chance to purchase first aid kits for $25.

"They are the larger kits, and it is a really nice gift," said Director of Education Services Nigel Poole. "The money received for the first aid kits will be kept in the community locally to help citizens in need.

"Donations will be used to assist victims of disasters such as house fires to provide shelter and clothing for families and other services we provide for the community."

Poole said first aid kits can be purchased at The American Red Cross office in Albany, located at 500 Pine Ave.

Officials also said during winter months blood is usually in short supply due to the holidays, travel schedules, illness and bad weather.

Donating blood during this time could save a life and is another way to give during the holidays, said Poole.