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MailTribune.com
  • Celebrating abundance in a time of need

  • As we gather around the holiday table this year, it may be with unusually heavy hearts. Job loss, broken families, loved ones serving far away in the military, financial strain — 2009 has served up a lot of challenges.
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      Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross
      60 Hawthorne St.
      Medford 97504
      541-779-3773
      www.redcross.org

      Ashland Food Project
      541-488-6976
      foodproject@opendoor.com...
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      Learn More
      Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross

      60 Hawthorne St.

      Medford 97504

      541-779-3773

      www.redcross.org

      Ashland Food Project

      541-488-6976

      foodproject@opendoor.com

      www.ashlandfoodproject.com



      CASA of Jackson County

      613 Market St.

      Medford 97504-6125

      541-734-2272

      www.jacksoncountycasa.org
  • As we gather around the holiday table this year, it may be with unusually heavy hearts. Job loss, broken families, loved ones serving far away in the military, financial strain — 2009 has served up a lot of challenges.
    How do we find the joy to celebrate abundance amidst such scarcity and tragedy? By shifting our focus outward and truly connecting with the "giving" aspect of Thanksgiving.
    "We don't have that huge metropolitan area around us, so we have to be more independent and take care of each other," says Marj Jameson, executive director of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, what helps the most is neighbors helping neighbors."
    Giving to the community — time, money, goods — ripples far beyond the immediate exchange. Generous actions enhance the lives of recipients and givers by strengthening human connections.
    "Community is the feeling of belonging, feeling a meaningful connection with other people," says John Javna, co-founder of Ashland Food Project. "We achieve that by working together. It's the thing we need the most in times like these."
    Wondering where your giving efforts might best fit into the holiday season? Take a cue from these community organizers, nonprofit coordinators and social workers.
    SIGN A CARD
    Special holiday greetings will reach servicemen and women thanks to the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross.
    "With all the National Guard placements in the Middle East right now, families are missing their loved ones and we've been busy," says Jameson, of facilitating emergency communications with military families.
    This month, Red Cross launches a holiday card drive for service people and veterans. Volunteers are needed to help sign and address cards that are donated by various organizations. If you're interested, call Emergency Services Director Tony Hernandez at 541-779-3773.
    FILL A BAG WITH FOOD
    In just a year, more than seven percent of Ashlanders have gotten involved in the Ashland Food Project. The neighborhood-based, door-to-door food collection system picks up donations from private homes once every two months, delivering them to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Interest has grown from about 300 households donating 3,800 pounds of food in June to about 60 people picking up more than 8,000 pounds of food from 750 households in October.
    "Our motto is: You want to help, we want to make it easy," explains Javna. "The spirit of it is so uplifting, and it works for everybody: the recipients, the organizers, the donors. It's a win-win-win. We're achieving far more than we could have ever imagined."
    The next pick-up date is Dec. 12. If you'd like to get involved or talk to someone about setting up a similar infrastructure in your community, go to www.ashlandfoodproject.com.
    WRITE A CHECK OR DONATE A COAT
    Some people have time, others have money. As decreased funding threatens the existence of local nonprofits such as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Jackson County, sending a cash donation may bring a sense of stability to a child in need.
    "We're advocating for over 500 children a year with over 450 on our waiting list, and that's just in Jackson County," says Executive Director Jennifer Mylenek. "An average of two kids a day are removed from their homes for abuse or neglect. The numbers went up exponentially in 2008 and, unfortunately, the cases of abuse and neglect are worse."
    To keep these kids warm and sheltered, CASA also oversees a holiday coat and gift drive.
    "If you don't have any money but you have time, that's a great way to give," Mylenek says. "You can also help serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Gospel Mission or Kids Unlimited."
    Learn more by calling 541-734-2272 or visiting www.jacksoncountycasa.org.
    Mylenek also recommends www.volunteermatch.com for local volunteer opportunities — just plug in your zip code.
    No matter what your situation this holiday season — whether you've got turkey and all the trimmings or you'll be sharing meals with others at a mission or church — consider volunteering.
    "The one thing you can never re-create is time, so spend it wisely," says Cheryl Kolevzon, a mental health therapist at Kolpia Counseling Services Inc. in Medford and Ashland. "By volunteering, you will learn valuable life skills, and you've reached out in both directions — to give as well as to receive."
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