Give the gift of charity this holiday season

Jennifer Manalili

Amid all of the hustle and bustle of parties and gifts and the chaos of food and shopping, is something more profoundly important: the need to give back during the holiday season. Call it the spirit of the season, but giving back to the community during this time of the year can be both truly inspiring and fulfilling. San Diego is ripe with many places to volunteer and ways for you to take part. Give back what you can to those who are less fortunate, as the saying goes, what comes around goes around.

Meals on Wheels

For over 40 years, Meals on Wheels has aimed to help reduce the isolation that many elderly may be experiencing as they grow older. They support the well-being of seniors by having volunteers deliver meals to their homes, these visits are often times the only person contact these seniors have all day, particularly if they are living alone. Individuals, groups or businesses and even juniors and street teams can volunteer. Cash donations are also accepted. For more information on the San Diego branch of Meals on Wheels, visit www.meals-on-wheels.org or www.mowaa.org.

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul, partnered with Father Joe’s Villages, has become one of San Diego’s largest residential homeless service providers and also also provides job training, education, meals and healthcare, amongst many other things, to homeless men, women, youth and children throughout the county. For more information on ways to donate or volunteer, visit www.svdpv.org.

Mama’s Kitchen

“Critical illness doesn’t not discriminate and neither does Mama’s Kitchen,” is their slogan. Mama’s Kitchen is a nonprofit organization that provides men, women and children who have been affected by AIDS or cancer by preparing and delivering meals to them three times a day/daily. They also provide a food pantry for individuals living with AIDS. Volunteers are needed and cash donations can be made online. The organization also has a virtual food drive available on their website where visitors can click and buy items of food to donate, with their donation going straight to the purchase of that food for the pantry. For more information visit www.mamaskitchen.org.

San Diego Rescue Mission

Since the ’50s, the San Diego Rescue Mission has provided homeless men, women and children with some comfort during the holiday season, providing them with small care packages, complete meals, toys, hygiene products and clothing and information on long-term recovert programs. The rescue mission takes money, goods and vehicle donations and you can also help by shopping at their stores. Donations start as low as $1.67 to feed one homeless person in need. For more information, visit www.sdrescue.org.

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots provides needy children with toys each year, during a two week campaign leading up to Christmas. New and unwrapped toy donations can be dropped off at any Toys R Us or Babies R Us store through Dec. 20. (Donations made after will go to next year’s campaign.) For more information on the San Diego chapter of Toys for Tots, email them at [email protected]