Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

My Little Last Minute Hectoring

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So, it’s nearly Christmas, and for those of you who have been reading this for a while, it’s also obviously my annual hector-you-until-you-feel-guilty post.   I have no idea how many of you actually feel guilty, and how many of those who do go and do something about it–but I figure, every little bit helps.

First, on the business as usual front, there’s the matter of the phone cards.  What troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and even troops just stationed places like Germany, really want at this time of year is a way to get in touch with their families.

Most of the groups that do that work out here–collect the money for the cards or the cards themselves; ship them overseas; etc–do in fact only deal in phone cards.  Groups in some other places I’ve read about have been upping the technology some, though, and sending means for video calls.

This sounds to me like just generally a better idea, but I’m told by a family member in the Army that it can get logistically dicey in war zones. 

I think that what he was trying to say, very politely, was that war zones have security issues that video might not be compatible with.

Whatever–the phone cards are really needed, and the troops will not mind getting some a little late. 

Go Google an organization in your vicinity and see if there’s anything you can do to help.  If you don’t have the money to send a card, most places are looking for volunteers.

And “most places are looking for volunteers” is where the rest of this is going, too.  So–

Second, the area in which I live has run into a problem in the last week that may be specific to conditions here or may be general across the country.

We have a number of different local organizations that have been partnering, for years, with various low-income housing projects, low-income-population schools and churches in inner city neighborhoods to put on Christmas Eve parties for the relevant children.  At these parties, each child receives a Christmas present. 

The organizations do not go in for high end electronics or anything idiotically expensive, but they do give brand name toys, things advertised on TV, etc.

This year, many of these organizations do not have enough toys to give all the children who will be coming to their parties.  And I don’t mean they’re short a couple.  One organization in Hartford is down 64 presents for a total population of 80 kids. 

That may be the recession, or it may be the peculiarities of Connecticut at this moment.  A lot of us are still cleaning up and doing repairs from the October snow storm, and a lot of us are still catching up with work from the more-than-a-week of solid power outages that followed.

My feeling, though, is that it wouldn’t really hurt to check. 

Finally, and especially for those of you with more time than money, the organizations that bring meals to the elderly and to shut-ins week after week have acute staffing problems on the holidays,  and often can’t bring meals on the holiday itself at all.

Most of them would be more than happy with a little extra help right now, and so would the local food pantries, soup kitchens, and turkeys-for-needed-families organizations.  

They need people to drive, people to deliver, people to package food baskets and to serve.   If you belong to a church, your church may do this, or may be working with an inner city church to do this. 

If you don’t (and don’t want to), there are plenty of secular or non-denominational organizations that do the same things.  In Connecticut, the major one of these is called Food Share, and it operates twelve months a years.

Finally finally, if you belong to an organization that is looking to do some charity work as a group, I want to suggest again that you look into adopting a local public school–or one in a poor area of a nearby city–to fund field trips to things like the opera and the zoo.

If you adopt a school with a mixed-class population, make sure you provide for all the students, not just the “needy” ones.  The problem with means testing in a case like this is that it exposes children to ridicule from their peers,  and that it often puts off families who are embarrassed or angry at having to make the personal disclosures usually required to determine if they’re eligible for these things.

Remember that even a $1 family contribution can be more than some families can handle, and the typical $5 to $10 are often enormously prohibitive.

Poorer schools can’t afford to do field trips at all.

If none of that appeals to you, I offer the local public library, which sometimes doesn’t have enough money for week-end openings or for story hours for children.

One way or the other, there’s probably somebody out there who’s looking directly for you.

Written by janeh

December 23rd, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'My Little Last Minute Hectoring'

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  1. I suspect in this case, “logistics” is spelled “bandwidth.” I blame efficiency reports. Evidently “spent the IT budget making sure everything was easy, fast and reliable” isn’t a promotion-getter, while “rammed untested unreliable software down everyone’s throats while not providing training” is. (They word it differently, of course.)


    23 Dec 11 at 6:32 pm

  2. And if you miss Christmas, you don’t have to wait until next Christmas to lend someone a hand! (A friend called me yesterday to enquire about something she knew I’d been involved in which started planning months ago for events beginning today, and you really don’t have to leave it that late to offer!)

    Of Jane’s excellent suggestions, I rather like the meals for old folks one. The local service is having difficulty finding volunteers. Because of the nature of the work (you have to be free around noon and have a car) the local group at least is dominated by the healthier retirees, who are on fixed incomes, and some of them are finding it increasingly difficult to put gas in their cars what with the prices going up and up.

    Since I haven’t put gas in a car since I sold my last one, I don’t realize how bad it can get until I hear about this sort of thing or how much some of my co-workers spend on gas for a week. Lots of areas have essentially no public transportation and anyway, you can’t do meals-on-wheels by bus, not unless you wanted to start sending cold meals.


    24 Dec 11 at 5:36 pm

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