Ways to offer help and hope this holiday season

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE / THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Stores are packed with shoppers seeking deals on talking "Frozen" dolls, robotic dinosaurs and the latest incarnation of the iPhone.

But thousands of area children, senior citizens and people with disabilities don't know if there will be a present under the tree by Christmas. Local nonprofits and social service agencies are working to help those in need this holiday season, and they're looking for help.

Here are some ways you can make the holidays brighter for others:

GIVING GIFTS

The University of Mary Washington's Community Outreach and Resources group hopes to give boxes filled with toiletries and treats to 314 students in local Head Start programs. To help, drop off hats, gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, small toys, coloring books and crayons to the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service office suite, in the basement of Seacobeck Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 5.

Meow Stories is collecting stockings for the pets of senior citizens in need. Drop off donations of stockings and/or stuffers, including pet toys, treats, pet food, combs and brushes to the nonprofit, 6191 Plank Road in Spotsylvania County.

Caroline County's Department of Social Services seeks toys and clothes for children and teenagers, winter coats and gift cards. For details, call 804/633-5071.

Stafford County Department of Social Services wants to help county children. The department hopes to collect toys and clothes for children, clothes for teens, winter coats and gift cards. For details, call 540/658-8732 or email yolunda.willis@dss.virginia.gov.

Westmoreland County Department of Social Services seeks toys and clothes for children, gifts for teenagers, winter coats and small household items. For details, call 804/493-9305.

SERVE, a nonprofit in Stafford County, seeks gift cards to grocery stores, Target or Walmart and Best Buy; gifts for teenagers; toiletries; and food. For details, call 540/288-9603.

Stafford Junction seeks new, unwrapped toys for children ages 0-16 and new or gently used coats for tweens, teens and adults. Donations are needed by Dec. 11 and may be dropped off at 791 Truslow Road in Stafford, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Micah Ecumenical Ministries seeks warm winter clothes, such as coats, thermal underwear, hats, gloves and scarves. The agency, which helps chronically homeless people, also needs small propane tanks. Drop off donations Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1013 Princess Anne St. in Fredericksburg. For details, call 540/479-4116.

Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks gift cards to help clients in need. Gift cards to stores that sell clothes or toys or to restaurants would be helpful. For details, call 540/371-7444.

Bragg Hill Family Life Center seeks food, toys and toiletries to help families who attend the agency's annual holiday dinner and Santa Day. The center also needs volunteers for those events, which are on Dec. 9 and 19. For details, call 540/371-3662.

SPONSOR A CHILD OR FAMILY

Loisann's Hope House seeks sponsors for homeless mothers and children. Sponsors would buy the family Christmas gifts. For details, call 540/371-0831, ext. 202.

Fredericksburg's Department of Social Services seeks sponsors for children in need. To help, call 540/372-1032, ext. 249 or emailhayley.badillo@dss.virginia .gov.

Spotsylvania County's Department of Social Services seeks sponsors to provide families in need with food and gifts. To help, email lori.weresnick@dss.virginia.gov.

LUCHA Ministries seeks sponsors to take children shopping and allow them to buy gifts for their family members. To help, call 540/370-4502.

Home Instead Senior Care hopes to help local elderly residents through its "Be a Santa to a Senior" program. Organizers want holiday gifts for seniors. To sponsor a person, call 540/899-1422 or emailgbillups@homeinstead.com.

GIVE OF YOUR TIME

The United States Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program seeks volunteers to help unload, sort and pack toys. Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. To help, emailwilma.vaughn@usmc.mil.

Lions of Virginia needs volunteers to help sell Christmas trees, a fundraiser that generates money for youth programs and aid for people who are blind or hearing impaired. To help, call 540/226-4551.

The Salvation Army needs volunteers to ring the bell during the Red Kettle Campaign, which raises money to help others during the holidays. To help, call 540/373-3431 or emaillaura_stempien@uss.salvationarmy.org.

The Senior Visitors program seeks volunteers to help lonely and isolated senior citizens. To help, call 540/371-2704.

The Holiday Project seeks volunteers to visit residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities on Christmas Day. Volunteers can meet at 9 a.m. at Fire Station 12 on Sebring Drive in Stafford. For details, visit holidayproject.info/wherewhen/fredericksburg.

For more details and updates, visit the area United Way's annual Holiday Opportunities Guide online at rappahannockunitedway.org or check out the "Doing Good" blog on fredericksburg.com.

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