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Holiday Guide: Lending a Helping Hand

Photo by nsdis on Flickr.Starting in January, Go West Young Mom will be highlighting a charity or charitable event each month. But first, here are some ways you can help others during the holiday season. A number of community groups have wrapped up their efforts in order to get gifts to needy families and seniors before Christmas. But below are several organizations that are still collecting items or looking for volunteers. If you have other suggestions, please note them in the comments section.
  • The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation accepts new and unwrapped toys for needy children. There are numerous drop-off boxes all over the area. Click here to see locations in suburbs including Aurora, Batavia, Naperville, Elmhurst, DeKalb, Geneva, Glen Ellyn, St. Charles, Wheaton, Yorkville and more.  Click here and select "toy drop-offs" to find locations in other towns. Note that toys for the 2011 campaign will be collected through Dec. 16.
  • Over the past month, Dominick's and ABC 7 have coordinated a Holiday Food Drive benefitting the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. You can make monetary donations when shopping at Dominick's (add $1 or $5 to your grocery bill) and pre-packed bags of food are also available for purchase to go into holiday food drive bins. Dominick's stores are also seeking volunteers to work on Dec. 17 to engage customers and encourage donations. If you are interested in volunteering, call 630-443-6910 ext. 136.
  • The Humanitarian Service Project, based in Carol Stream, aims to alleviate the pain and suffering that poverty brings to needy seniors and children in DuPage and Kane counties. The group will be seeking volunteers until Dec. 23 to help prepare Christmas gifts for the families and seniors it serves. Call 630-221-8340 to set up an appointment to volunteer. Children must be 10 or older to work in the warehouse; kids under 16 must have adult supervision. The group also looks for drivers to prepare and deliver a holiday meal to a lonely senior on or around Christmas. Call 630-221-8340 for more info.
  • Fox Valley Women and Children's Health Partners has a "Holiday Giving Tree" up in its St. Charles office at 3310 W. Main Street until Dec. 19. The tree benefits the Elgin-based Larkin Center, which provides a number of services including outpatient family counseling and a therapeutic day school. Some of the wishes of Larkin Center patients include gift cards, MP3 players, a bike, yoga mat, duffle bag, shoes, a Lego set, as well as winter clothing in both children and adult sizes. Gifts can be dropped off during normal business hours: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info, call 630-897-6044.
  • Community Christian Church is holding a "Gift Mart" in Aurora and Joliet this year on Dec. 17. The mart will sell donated toys for $2 each to parents who otherwise would not be able to purchase gifts for their children. The church is looking for donations of new toys (no stuffed animals or board games, please) as well as monetary donations and volunteers to help work the event. Note this is an opportunity for children to volunteer with parents. 
  • Our Savior Lutheran Church at 420 W. Downer Place near downtown Aurora has a "Mitten Tree" and a "Senior Tree" for anyone wanting to donate children's mittens, socks, gloves, scarves, hats, etc. or senior-sized sweatpants and sweatshirts. Call 630-897-5936 to find out when you can drop off your donation.
  • Animal House Veterinary Hospital at 2079 Route 38 in St. Charles has a "Giving Tree" in its lobby on behalf of Rover Rescue. Call 630-443-1472 for more info.
  • The Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry always welcomes volunteers and donations. Items that are currently very needed include cereal, liquid detergent, fruit juice, spaghetti sauce, sugar, canned fruit, gluten-free foods and sugar-free foods. Click here for more info on how can help the food pantry, whether during the holidays or next year. Note the pantry has opportunities for children to volunteer with their parents.
  • Naperville-based Memorable Jaunts wants to give away some free family portrait sessions for families in need this season. There are no requirements - you can nominate any family you feel is deserving. They will receive a free family photoshoot and free family portraits, and if you'd like, you can sponsor additional prints and frames. For more info, or to nominate a family, contact Karthika at 630-261-5663 or karthika@memorablejaunts.com.
  • If you'd like to buy a quality toy for a toy drive, Our Children Our Earth: Wooden Toys, Silks and Eco-Goods of Batavia is offering Mliessa & Doug brand toys at a 40 percent off for those purchasing them for toy drive donations.

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