Holiday season is around the corner, and that means it’s time for gift giving and cooking. With that comes the season to give back.
Local nonprofits are kicking off annual holiday drives for food, coats, blankets, toys, clothes and money to support those in need in Wichita – with a few additions this year.
Operation Holiday and the Salvation Army want to better serve Wichita teens in need, who are often forgotten in children’s toy drives. And Operation Holiday added a pet food drive to its list of items it will collect over the next two months.
“We bring people hope during a time of year when it’s very physically dark and it could be sad and when people have expectations,” said Anne Corriston, executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries.
Here’s what you should know about this year’s holiday drive season.
Some nonprofits are adding new programs this year.
▪ More emphasis on teenagers.
The Salvation Army used to provide toys for children up to 14 years old. This year, it will include 15- and 16-year-olds. For the first time, older teens will be added to the Angel Trees that the group sponsors at malls and businesses.
Operation Holiday also has a project called Teen 2 Teen, for 15- through 17-year-olds, but it wants to better promote the project this season to make sure teens don’t fall by the wayside.
Corriston said she hopes teens will pick out gifts for other teens because the age group can be harder to shop for than young children.
▪ A new approach to collecting food.
Youth ministries will hang brightly colored fliers on the front doorknobs of homes in various neighborhoods in Wichita on Saturday.
Middle school students will lead the door hanger project and will arrange to pick up the donated food the following week.
The idea came from Kyle Gibson, an AmeriCorps VISTA fellow, who is originally from Naperville, Ill. Gibson said youth groups in Naperville use the tactic to garner donations for the local food bank.
“All you have to do is put the food on the porch,” Gibson said.
▪ A pet food drive by Operation Holiday.
The pet food drive is a joint project with Skaer Veterinary Clinic.
Christen Skaer, a veterinarian at Skaer Veterinary Clinic, leads a pet vaccination project with Inter-Faith Ministries called Project Care. She provides vaccinations for pets of homeless people, so the pets can stay in local shelters with their owners.
For the pet food drive, people can drop off donations of unopened, non-expired pet food at the Skaer Veterinary Clinic, 404 S. Edgemoor, or the Operation Holiday Distribution Center, 6225 E. Kellogg.
Operation Holiday is an annual drive to support local families in need during the holiday season. This year, it hopes to give food, Dillons gift cards, toys, coats and blankets to more than 14,000 low-income residents in Wichita.
That’s up from 12,341 people served by Operation Holiday last year.
The project wants to collect more than 100,000 cans of food, including 4,500 jars of peanut butter, 25,000 cans of vegetables and 9,000 boxes of cereal.
To information on how to apply for help, visit interfaithwichita.org/operation-holiday/apply or call 316-264-9303.
To donate and to find drop-off locations, visit interfaithwichita.org/operation-holiday/donate. Operation Holiday needs to raise $350,000 to provide its services this year and needs 3,000 volunteers.
“It’s very easy for us to turn off the lights at the end of the day and become complacent,” said Todd King, an attorney at KB&A Accident Recovery Team, a sponsor of Operation Holiday.
But King said it’s important for the community to help those in need, either with donations or volunteered time.
Operation Holiday is run by Inter-Faith Ministries and includes support from Toys For Tots and Catholic Ministries.
Angel Trees will start appearing in malls and businesses Nov. 27.
Angel Trees are Christmas trees with numbered paper tags hung from the branches. The tags have the first name, age and gender of a child or teen in need of toys or clothes. People can take one or more of the tags and buy gifts for the children described on the tag.
Wheeler said the Salvation Army would accept applications for holiday assistance Monday through Nov. 20. Individuals and families in need can submit applications at three Salvation Army locations – 1739 S. Elpyco, 1910 S. Everett and 350 N. Market – from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The locations are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.
To apply, people should bring proof of income, proof of family members living in the home and proof of residency, such as a pay stub, utility bill or government assistance card.
The Salvation Army also collects donations of money, most notably from its bell-ringing campaign, which also starts Nov. 27. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit www.ringbells.org.
It also has a Star of Hope project for adults and seniors with special needs.
Wheeler said the Salvation Army is also trying to increase the amount on the gift cards given to families for holiday meals. With inflation, he said, they want to be able to provide families with a complete meal. But as those prices go up, he said, the cost of providing the same amount of services rises as well.
Share the Season
People who have experienced unexpected hardships can apply for help through Share the Season.
Share the Season is a local effort coordinated by the Wichita Community Foundation, the Salvation Army and The Wichita Eagle. It offers one-time assistance to people who need help because of hardships such as job loss or illness.
The average recipient receives help paying utility or medical bills. Payments are made directly to creditors.
Last year, Share the Season helped 214 families. It received $244,500 from donors.
People can apply for assistance during the holiday season at www.sharetheseason.org and at the Salvation Army headquarters, 350 N. Market. For information about applying, call 316-263-2769. The application deadline is Dec. 20.
Contributions may be sent to Share the Season, Wichita Community Foundation, 301 N. Main, Suite 100, Wichita, KS 67202. Donations can also be made through PayPal online at www.sharetheseason.org. If you have questions about donating, call 316-264-4880.
Kansas Food Bank
Starting Saturday, Dillons stores around the state will collect donations for the Kansas Food Bank at the cash registers.
In Wichita, the fund drive will run through Thanksgiving. In the rest of the state, it will run through the end of the year.
Brian Walker, president and CEO of the Kansas Food Bank, said it’s important for people to donate prior to the holidays, because holiday food donations often flood the food bank once the holidays have passed.
He said the food bank tries to focus on collecting holiday-specific foods not typically consumed other times of the year, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce and even canned fruit.
“As a food bank, we typically get those donated after the holidays,” Walker said.
Bike ride to benefit Toys for Tots
The 2016 Toys for Tots Bicycle Ride is set for Sunday afternoon in Wichita. People interested in participating should meet just prior to the ride’s 1 p.m. start time in the parking lot of Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd.
The ride follows a 3.8-mile path south along the Arkansas River and will end at Shelter No. 4 in O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean.
Participants are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy, nonperishable food item or cash donation, which will go to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. There’s no registration, and participating in the ride is free.