‘Tis the season for giving, and kids can get in on the action, too, with fun ideas included inside our annual list of ways grownups and kids can help area families. Holiday fundraising and toy drives are popular every December, but equally important are the year-round needs of nonprofit organizations throughout South Texas.
“The top of our wish list changes with the seasons. Today, it’s warm kids’ clothing. Over the summer, it’s uniforms for the new school year. There’s always a great need for formula, baby bottles, wipes and pacifiers,” says Evita Morin, assistant vice president for external affairs at San Antonio’s Haven for Hope, which provides shelter and help for homeless families and single adults.
“It’s a scary time for a child and, due to the nature of the crisis, the parent can’t always be there to provide comfort when he or she is trying to make ends meet,” Morin says. Donations help reduce that fear, she says. “Ultimately, when a family receives these simple gifts, they are reminded that they are safe, that things are going to be OK,” Morin says.
Being sick can also be frightening when there’s no health insurance to cover treatment or money in the bank to cover high emergency room bills. San Antonio’s Faith Family Clinic provides health care at a minimal cost to workers without insurance and their families at two West Side and Northeast Side clinics. “Imagine the anguish of a parent trying to decide whether to take a child to the hospital with a severe headache,” says executive director Jim Young.
At his clinic, parents were able to bring in a 10-year-old child with worsening headaches, which turned out to be meningitis. “We were able to save that child’s life because they didn’t put it off. They had a place to go,” Young says. Donations as little as $25 can pay for a child’s school physical, and a $250 gift can cover the cost of immunizations. “One series of vaccines can save a child’s life,” he says.
At Any Baby Can, financial contributions are needed to help provide free services to families with children who suffer from chronic illness or disabilities. “Really, our goal is to provide a safety net for these families,” says corporate relations specialist Denise Rizzo.
At Arc of San Antonio, which serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, donating time as a volunteer can become a two-way gift, says Beth Green, director of development and communications. “Our participants are so much fun to work with because they see things in a different light,” Green says. “It’s very rewarding.”
Dozens of area nonprofits need donations and hands-on help from volunteers to help provide food, shelter, support services and educational opportunities to young Texans. Education programs can be indoor classes for pre-school kids through Avance-San Antonio or outdoor programs for school kids offered by organizations like Cibolo Nature Center and Farm in Boerne.
“Our programs encourage children of all ages to step outside to explore, learn and play. If we enhance their appreciation and enjoyment of natural resources, they will understand why it’s so important to conserve them now and for future generations,” says Carolyn Chipman Evans, executive director of the nonprofit center. “So, as we like to say, let’s get toes in the creek and hands in the dirt.”
Kids can help raise funds for a child’s school physical, a fishing pole for an outdoor program or feed for horses at a nonprofit camp. They can collect toys and board games or sign up for the Family Service Association’s Adopt-A-Family program.
Kids can pitch in by going shopping until Christmas Eve at a new seasonal store called “From Me to You” that was opened by Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas. All area kids are welcome to shop with volunteer elves for low-priced holiday presents. “It raises awareness about our organization in a fun way,” says Armen Babajanian, vice president of external relations. “It also teaches kids about budgeting, and it teaches them about giving back. All the proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
Inner City Development, which provides food and clothing for low-income area families in crisis, is letting parents do the shopping for their children at its Christmas toy sale in mid-December. The organization relies on donated toys to stock the shelves, and sells the toys at minimal prices.
Here are the holiday and year-round wish lists of numerous nonprofits serving South Texas families.
The American Red Cross San Antonio Area Chapter serves 2.4 million people in 22 counties across South Central Texas. The chapter needs financial contributions and volunteers. Kids can help by working with their schools to form Red Cross Clubs. An easy way to help is to just say thank you when you see a volunteer at work, says Rafael Aviles, regional communications manager for the chapter. “They don’t do it for money or recognition. And for that reason, a thank you is the best gift of all.” For more information, visit www.redcross.org/tx/san-antonio or call 210-224-5151.
Any Baby Can assists families with infants and children through age 12 who suffer from chronic illness, disability or developmental delay. The organization needs financial contributions, diapers and formula, and holiday toys for children. Kids can help by holding a toy drive. Teens ages 16 and older can also become volunteers. For more information, visit www.anybabycansa.org or call 227-0170.
Arc of San Antonio serves children, youth and adults with intellectual or other developmental disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. The group needs financial contributions, volunteers, H-E-B gift cards and art and crafts supplies. Kids can help by raising funds for children’s art and crafts supplies. Visit www.arc-sa.org or call 210-490-4300 for more information.
Assistance League of San Antonio provides help to babies, children, families and seniors each year. Last year, the league’s year-round programs helped more than 60,000 local residents, including 6,750 elementary school kids who were given school clothes and vouchers to buy shoes. The league needs financial contribution, volunteers and donations of goods to the league’s thrift shop. Kids can help by raising money for the league’s Togs for Tots program. Call 210-732-1200, or visit www.assistanceleaguesa.org for more information.
Avance for 40 years has been helping San Antonio families and young children in at-risk communities. The nonprofit believes that education must begin in the first three years of a child’s life. While parents attend classes, children ages 3 and under are provided with early education classes to prepare them for school. Avance needs financial contributions and volunteers. The organization also needs school supplies, baby supplies, push toys for mobile infants, pre-school books, household items, education toys, and winter jackets and sweaters. Kids can help by collecting toys or school supplies. For more information, visit www.avancesa.org. Or call 210-220-1788.
Baptist Child and Family Services provides early childhood care for struggling families, individuals in crisis and their children. The organization needs financial contributions and volunteers. For more information, visit www.bcfs.net or call 210-208-5642.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas matches mentors with children ages 5 to 21. The group needs financial contributions, special event sponsors, volunteers and office supplies. For more information, visit bigmentor.org or call 210-225-6322.
Blue Santa community program run by seven substations of the San Antonio Police Department to provide groceries and presents to needy families every December. Call your nearest substation to make financial contributions or donate new toys. Visit www.sanantonio.gov/sapd for police substation contact information.
Boysville is a home forand boys and girls through age 17 who cannot remain in their original home because of abuse, neglect or other family crises. Boysville needs financial contributions and volunteers. For the holidays, the organization needsboard games, winter clothing for children, gift cards for teen-appropriate stores, toys and baby supplies. Kids can help by collecting toys and board games for boys or girls. Visit www.boysvilletexas.org or call 210-659-1901 for more information.
Center for Family Relations helps children and parents in divorce situations redefine and restructure their families. The center needs children’s playroom supplies and office supplies. Kids can help by collecting children’s books, movies, toys and other items on the playroom wish list. To see the complete wish list, visit www.centerforfamilyrelations.org/wish-list or call 210-733-3349.
Children’sion for Maximum Potential, or CAMP, provides recreational camping and other opportunities for kids and grownups with special needs. The association needs financial contributions, volunteers and recreational andupplies. Kids can help by collecting $25, which will pay for one day of feed for the camp’s horses. For more information, visit www.campcamp.org or call 210-671-5411.
Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas provides free peer support groups for ages 3-24, as well as bereavement and anticipatory grief counseling for individuals and families. The center needs financial contributions, volunteers, art supplies, teddy bears, snacks and gift cards. Kids can help by collecting new teddy bears for grieving kids. To see the center’s wish list, visit http://cbcst.org/how-you-can-help/our-wish-list or call 210-736-4847.
Children’s Shelter provides a safe haven for children ages newborn to 14 who must leave their homes because of abuse, abandonment or neglect. The shelter needs financial contributions, volunteers and year-round supplies of gift certificates and baby and children’s clothing, as well as clothing parents can wear on job interviews and early child development toys. The shelter’s holiday needs include art and crafts supplies, board games, soccer balls, basketballs, sidewalk chalk, G-rated DVDs, volleyball sets and jump ropes. Kids can help by collecting items on the holiday wish list. For more information, visit www.childrensshelter.org or call 210-212-2536.
ChildSafe acts as the Child Advocacy Center in Bexar County to serve children traumatized by abuse or neglect. In 2012,6,000 children were involved in confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect – the highest number of reported cases in Texas. Nineteen Bexar County children died from physical abuse in 2012. The organization needs financial contributions and volunteersGarden Angels to maintain the organization’s healing garden. Kids can help by organizing a drive to collect Christmas stockings filled with $10 gift cards and treats. For more information, visit www.childsafe-sa.org or call 210-675-9000.
Cibolo Nature Center and Farm in Boerne needs financial contributions and volunteer trail guides for its outdoor classrooms for Southildren. The nonprofit also needs child-sized fishing poles, binoculars, a soil corer and LaMotte brand green water quality monitoring kits. Kids can help by raising funds for binoculars or small fishing poles. For more information, visit www.cibolo.org or call 830-249-4616.
Elf Louise is a nonprofit holiday drive that collects Christmas presents for thousands of needy San Antonio area families each year. The organization needs financial contributions, volunteers and new, unwrapped toys for infants and children through age 18. Kids can help by organizing a neighborhood toy drive. For toy drop-off points, visit www.elflouise.org/toydrops.php or call 210-224-1843.
Faith Family Clinic needs financial contributions and volunteer medical professionals. The clinic is encouraging groups to hold a Christmas Drive for Supplies to collect bandages, alcohol wipes and H-E-B or Wal-Mart gift cards to cover the cost of prescription medications or other urgent needs. Kids can help by raising $25 to cover the cost of a child’s school physical. For information, visit www.faithfamilyclinic.org or call 210-653-1511.
Family Service Association, San Antonio’s oldest human service agency, serves children, seniors and families in need from 28 counties at five neighborhood locations and more than 50 school campuses. Services include early childhood education, parent coaching, youth programs and in-home care for seniors. The association needs financial contributions and volunteers. Kids can help by participating in this months’ Adopt-A-Family program. The association will help you choose a family, and thenyou a list of the family’s critical needs and holiday wish lists. The association will deliver the items after you have collected them. For more information, visit www.family-service.org or call 210-299-2400.Haven for Hope has provided shelter and services to hundreds of homeless individuals and families in needHaven for Hope, nearly 3,000 people in San Antonio are homeless each day. The average age of a homeless child in San Antonio is 6 years. Haven for Hope needs financial contributions and volunteers. The organization also needs cribs and toddler beds, towels, twin sheets, art supplies, diapers and baby food. Kids can help by raising enough money to buy diapers or children’s art supplies. For more information, visit www.havenforhope.org or call 210-220-2163.
Healy-Murphy Center serves teens in crisis, particularly pregnant and parenting teens and their children. The center offers high school and GED programs, day care for infants and toddlers, and well baby/well mommy check-ups and other health services. The center needs financial contributions and supplies for babies and teens. Baby and toddler needs include diapers, baby food, pacifiers and clothing. Teen needs include school supplies, clothing, digital cameras, used laptops and toiletries. For more information, visit www.healymurphy.org or call 210-223-2944.
Inner City Development provides food and clothing for area families in crisis. The organization needs financial contributions, pantry food and part-time volunteers to help coach teams, supervise youth programs, stock the emergency food pantry, organize fundraising activities and help maintain the grounds. For more information, visit www.innercitydevelopment.org or call 210-224-7239.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas provides medical, dental and health-related human services, including free health screenings to low-income families and the uninsured in South Texas. The organization needs volunteer parenting program facilitators and family wellness program volunteers. For more information, visit www.mhm.org.
Mission Road Ministries serves more than 800 children and adults with intellectual developmental disabilities, or IDD. The nonprofit needs financial contributions and volunteers. The current wish list includes warm winter coats. Visit www.missionroadministries.org for wish list updates and volunteer opportunities or call 210-334-2417.
Morgan’s Wonderland, a non-profit 25-acre theme park in Northeast San Antonio, is designed for special needs children and adults. A Wonderland Christmas is under way on weekends through Dec. 29, with holiday light shows, visits from Santa Claus, music and a petting zoo. Admission is free to anyone with special needs, with a small admission fee charged to the general public. Join the park’s Heroes Club with a monthly pledge of $25 or more. Visit www.MorgansWonderland.com for more information.
Providence Place, which used to be called Methodist Mission Home, serves birth mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy and young adults with disabilities. The nonprofit needs financial contributions and volunteers. For more information, visit www.provplace.org or call 210-696-2410.
Ronald McDonald House is a temporary residence program where families of children with serious illnesses can stay while their kids are being treated at nearby hospitals. There are two in San Antonio. The organization needs financial contributions and bedroom linens. Kids can help by organizing aluminum can tab drives. Collect the pop-top tabs on cans, and drop them off at any Ronald McDonald House. The organization uses proceeds from recycling the aluminum to help fund operations. Visit www.ronaldmcdonaldhouse-sa.org or call 210-614-2554 for more information.
Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives provides counseling for families in crisis and a safe place to stay for children who have been affected by abuse, parental desertion, family strain or emotional turmoil. The organization needs financial contributions and a wide variety of items to support housing as many as 120 children at a time. As the organization explains it: “Just think of all the things you need in your own family, and add 120 children to the equation.” Visit www.ryma.org for more information or call 210-340-8077.
The Salvation Army serves children, adults and seniors in Bexar County and surrounding communities. The organization needs program volunteers, disaster-response volunteers and Christmas volunteers, as well as sheets, towels, toiletries and thrift store donations. Visit www.salvationarmysatx.org or call 210-352-2000.
San Antonio Food Bank collects and distributes more than 44 million pounds of food in 16 Texas counties every year. The food bank needs financial donations, food and volunteers. Kids can help with a neighborhood food drive. Find how-to instructions at www.safoodbank.org or call 210-337-3663.
San Antonio Youth Literacy provides one-to-one reading assistance to children at San Antonio elementary schools. SAYL needs financial contributions and children’s books. Adults, including teens ages 17 and older, can help by becoming Reading Buddies. Spend one hour a week reading with young students. For more information, visit www.sayl.org or call 10-299-1533.
Seton Home provides a home for homeless pregnant and parenting teens and their babies. In an average year, the home will serve 85 young women and 80 babies. The home needs financial contributions, gift cards and baby supplies such as car seats, winter clothing, diapers and toddler pull-ups. For more information, visit www.setonhomesa.org or call 210-533-3504.
The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center collects blood donations for area hospitals. According to the center, one unit of blood can save three lives. For San Antonio locations and operating hours, visit http://southtexasblood.org/give-now/locations-hours.
Toys for Tots, a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program, collects new, unwrapped toys each year and distributes them to needy children in the community. The program needs new toys be dropped off until Dec. 23 at participating Toys R Us stores and other locations in Boerne, Cibolo, Helotes, New Braunfels and San Antonio. Kids can help by organizing a neighborhood drive to collect new toys. For more information, visit www.toysfortots.org and follow the prompts to find the closest drop-off sites.
Visitation House offers transitional housing and support services to homeless single mothers and their children in San Antonio. The program needs financialions. For more information, visit http://visitationhouseministries.org or call 210-735-6910.
By Renee Haines
Renee Haines is a San Antonio freelance writer.