Get in the spirit: Holiday help wanted

November 24, 2009 9:54:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


If you''d like to volunteer this holiday season but don''t know what to do, don''t sweat. People are ready to help you help others. 


Meagan Coughlin, projects coordinator for the Columbus/Lowndes United Way, says approximately 10 volunteer opportunities are available right now, and she says now is the time to get involved. 


"So much is going on because it''s the holidays and we''re seeing a lot more need for volunteers because of the economy. Organizations are having to use more volunteers to execute their mission. Right now is really the time to help out," said Coughlin. 


Volunteer opportunities are available to suit your time and taste. 


Do you want to get involved immediately? Sign up to help prepare meals for needy families alongside members of the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Fire Department and Columbus/Lowndes Recreation Authority Thursday morning at Stokes Beard Elementary Technology and Communication Magnet School. 


Sheila Elder with the CPD says volunteers are welcome to help cook 50 turkeys for 600 meals, package the meals and deliver the meals around the county as far as Caledonia. 


"What we''re going to do is have the police department and firemen doing the driving. Volunteers can ride along and get out and deliver the meals," said Elder. 


Would you rather wait until closer to Christmas? Volunteers are needed for the Columbus Christmas Parade and New Year''s Eve Block Party. 


Amber Murphree-Brislin, director of Main Street Columbus, is looking for an additional 10-15 volunteers to help organize participants in the Dec. 7 Christmas Parade at the Farmers Market staging area. Additional volunteers are needed to work the parade route. 


A fresh group of helping hands is needed for setup, logistics and working the gates from 7 p.m.-midnight on New Year''s Eve during the Block Party. 


Or would you prefer to make a more direct impact? You can Adopt-A-Family through the United Way''s partnership program with WCBI-TV. 


Jennifer Gerrard, project coordinator for Community Resource Connection, has already added 11 families to the Adopt-A-Family list of adoptees and will screen applications until Dec. 16. Qualifying families must provide documented proof of recent hardship such as medical records or a layoff letter. 


"We''re trying to reach people with serious hardships. Some just got through with chemotherapy. One girl had heart surgery in May. They''re not being selfish. You can tell these are true requests and they''re not acting like we''re Santa Claus," said Gerrard. will list the requested items and individuals can sign up to purchase and donate the gifts. Some requested items thus far include bed sheets, towels, a sewing machine for a young girl who wants to be a designer, an Easy Bake Oven, gas for a heater, and money for Christmas dinner. 


If you''d like to reach out from home, the Tenn-Tom chapter of the American Red Cross will be participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes. 


Greeting cards with "messages of cheer and appreciation" will be delivered through the Red Cross to military bases, veteran hospitals and other locations.  


"The Red Cross is asking everyone to sends cards to a soldier, a veteran or a soldier''s family. All we''re asking for is cards. No letters. No money," said Pauline Redmond with the Tenn-Tom chapter of the Red Cross. 


Cards should be mailed to: Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456, to be checked for safety and content. Volunteers are also needed to sort incoming cards at Broadacres United Methodist Church in Columbus from Dec. 7-30. 


To volunteer for any of the above programs or for more opportunities, call Meagan Coughlin at the Community Volunteer Center at 617-2992.