Giving Back

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What are the first words that come to mind when you think of the holiday season? Presents, family and food are all very plausible responses. This time of year is wonderful, but in many ways completely stressful. So many gifts I have to go buy for people-why do I have so many friends?! So many Christmas Parties to attend! And speaking of gifts, I better get that Michael Kors watch from somebody! Sound familiar? This is your yuletide alter ego speaking, here for the next few months to wreak havoc on your sanity/wallet and to deter your mind from concentrating on more important matters. Like the fact that, according to State and US officials, “an estimated 27,000 households in New York and New Jersey are still displaced from their homes because of Hurricane Sandy.” Or the startling reality that “every eleven seconds in the US, a companion animal is put down due to overpopulation in shelters,” according to the Humane Society. And while it’s not reasonable to suggest that everyone should dedicate their whole lives to charity during this already hectic time of the year, giving back to our community helps us fully appreciate what we do have and also offers some surprising health benefits. Aside from the obvious benefits of volunteering, such as making new friends and strengthening the community, studies have shown that volunteering and donating to charities also boost self-confidence, physical activity, and can ward off depression. According to www.helpguide.org, “giving back provides an individual with a sense of accomplishment and connects him or her to others, both key factors in high self-esteem levels and decreased depression.” In addition to that, volunteering can also help you excel in your career by providing valuable job skills, career experience, and networking opportunities. Whether you want to help fight disease, feed the homeless, reach out to Sandy victims or assist in finding a new homes for abandoned pets. There are hundreds of charities all over Long Island that need as much help as they can get. Regardless of your schedule or bank account status, there are ways that everyone can and should help out this season. Here are a few to consider right NOW:

1)Pioneers for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) – Hicksville, NY- (631)827-7266-Animal overpopulation and severe mistreatment remain an appalling reality. Help this cause by donating your time, money, or extra animal supplies/food this season. No time or money? Every effort counts, so get online at www.paws-li.org, where you can sign petitions to help prevent future animal cruelty and find out other ways you can help.

2)Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence-Bay Shore, NY- (631) 666-8833-Domestic Violence may or may not be something you can relate to, but this issue is a startling truth for many. According to the Department of Justice, “an estimated 25% of women have experienced domestic violence in their lives.” You can help by donations or volunteering to help provide resources for those affected. Visit their website for more info: www.sccadv.org

3)The Sarah Grace Foundation for Children with Cancer-Hicksville, NY (516)433-9745-This nonprofit seeks to provide comfort and much-needed medical care for children affected by cancer. Visit www.sarahgracefoundation.org for ways you can help, including blood, platelet, and marrow donations for children who are in desperate need of a donor.

4)Island Harvest Food Pantry-Mineola, NY-(516)294-8528-This organization is the largest hunger-relief organization on Long Island, relying solely on donations and volunteers. Look for bins at your local supermarket for easy ways to donate or check out www.islandharvest.org for volunteer opportunities.

5)Drive-Thru Good Deeds-Okay, so this is a fun one for instant good-deed gratification. You’ve heard of this before-next time you go through the drive thru at your favorite fast food establishment (hey, we’re all guilty of it,) simply tell the cashier you’d also like to pay for the order belonging to the car directly behind you too. Their reaction is priceless and starts a chain reaction of charitable behavior.

There is a constant need for benevolent aid year round, but it seems that the holiday season is especially urgent. Just days ago, Governor Cuomo issued a press release that urged New Yorkers to open their hearts and give back, saying that “New York’s food banks serve a variety of vulnerable populations across the state, including senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and low income families – many of whom have already been impacted by federal SNAP reductions. By purchasing a few extra items to donate when grocery shopping, we can all do our part to put food on the table of those in need this holiday season.” Additionally, the IRS indicates that many donations are tax deductible, and charities are making it as easy as ever to contribute food, cash donations, and clothing. So this year, take a few hours or even moments of your time to give back to your community this holiday season. Your conscience and community will thank you! Now, about that pumpkin pie…

Happy & Safe Holidays, Everyone!

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