In this season of giving, give of yourself

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As Janet and I prepare for Christmas with our family, we find much to be thankful for, even in these difficult economic times. We are grateful for our family, our health, our country and all of the opportunities and freedoms with which we are blessed.

We are deeply aware, however, of the uncertainty that looms over what should be a wonderful time of year.

This year, our nation’s families face the most economic uncertainty they have seen in decades. Many Ohioans are struggling to just pay the bills this year, let alone thinking about buying Christmas presents for their children and loved ones.

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This year, if you are fortunate enough to celebrate a Christmas much in the same fashion as in years past, I would like to encourage you to reach out to those around you. People need their spirits lifted, and I firmly believe that the greatest way to bring hope to the hearts of the downtrodden is by serving those around you.

In that spirit, I have compiled a list of organizations throughout Ohio that could use your help or donations this year, and I hope you will look to these, or similar organizations, to help make somebody’s Christmas just a little bit brighter.

Southeast Ohio: Two of the most obvious needs of those struggling to make ends meet are food and clothing, and food banks definitely could use help and donations this holiday season. Cincin-nati’s Freestore Foodbank is one of Ohio’s largest, serving about 160,000 people and providing holiday meals for more than 37,000 people annually. They provide food and clothing to 450 non-profit agencies in 20 counties across three states, which then distribute the goods to people in need throughout the year. The Freestore Foodbank even has a Kids Café program that provides evening meals for hungry children. Those looking to donate food or volunteer time should visit their Web site at

Northwest Ohio: By volunteering through the Meals on Wheels program, you can deliver food to hungry families and bring cheer to those with whom you visit. The Toledo branch in particular is looking for holiday help through the end of December. This is the perfect service opportunity for a family or small group. For more information, visit

Central Ohio: The Marine Toys for Tots program has established the collection and distribution of toys in communities where a Marine Corps Reserve Unit is located. They collect new, unwrapped toys each year, and distribute them as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community. And this year in particular, the Toys for Tots program has been in need of donations. More information about how to donate can be found at

Northeast Ohio: If you’re looking to lend a hand in improving the lives of the sick and their families, the Lutheran Hospital, a part of the Cleveland Clinic system, welcomes volunteers interested in a challenging and rewarding experience. The hospital relies on its volunteers for clerical support, fund raising, patient transport services and more. Additional information can be found at

Southeast Ohio: The “Share-A-Christmas” program in Tuscarawas County has come together to serve more than 4,300 residents during the holiday season, and they’re looking for last-minute food donations this year. Donations may be dropped off at Tuscora Park pavilion December 16 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Food will also be accepted December 17 and 18 as the baskets are prepared in the pavilion. On Dec. 19, more than 600 baskets will be distributed to needy families. Cash contributions for meat, produce and clothing vouchers are being accepted as well, and can be delivered or mailed to Share-A-Christmas, 1458 5th St. NW in New Philadelphia, OH 44663.

I hope the suggestions I’ve shared have ignited an awareness of the needs in your community and a desire to help those around you. All of this information is available on my Web site as well,, under “News Center” and “Sen. Voinovich’s Columns.”

Oftentimes, it is simply a matter of seeing a need and realizing that you can help fill that need. Believe me, you can truly make a difference. Please help make someone’s Christmas a little brighter by lending your time and resources. After all, it is the season of giving.