‘tis the season to
Text by Kathryn Brooks and Ron Jensen

Want to make a difference this holiday season? With over 150 Valley nonprofits championing worthwhile causes, one of the best ways to support our community in these unprecedented times is to offer monetary donations. Every dollar counts, so whatever amount you’re able to contribute will be greatly appreciated. And, if you can take the time from your busy schedule to volunteer, there are groups that will be grateful for your hands-on help. At random, we’ve selected some of the many nonprofits that are in need of support. 


St. Mary’s Food Bank distributed over 72 million pound of food last year to hungry people in Arizona. Relying on volunteers to help with the Food Bank’s operations and in raising awareness of the realities of hunger and poverty, its motto is that “no one should go to bed hungry.” Opportunities to help include office work, emergency food box sorters and packers and kitchen assistance. Hosting a food drive is a great way to get your friends, family and coworkers involved. St. Mary’s makes it easy with boxes ready to be picked up and filled with nonperishable food items. Flyers, participation forms and a “Most Wanted” list are ready to be printed from their website. You can even host a Diaper Drive. Monetary donations are always welcome as a way for you to contribute to the cause. For more information, their website is www.firstfoodbank.org


Did you know that our beloved Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, nonprofit zoo in the United States? Caring for over 3,000 animals, with nearly 400 species represented that include many threatened /endangered species, the zoo operates on 125 acres of land in the Papago Park area of Phoenix. That’s a huge amount of hungry mouths to feed and a lot of land to maintain. In addition to making a direct monetary donation there are other fun ways to help. You can become a member, renew your your membership, upgrade your membership, or become a wildlife champion by sponsoring your favorite Zoo animal. www.phoenixzoo.org


RMHC strives to ultimately change the world by helping to make a child’s life better. RMHC looks for ways to directly improve the health and well-being of children. They can’t do it alone. Volunteers are crucial to the assistance that they provide; from cooking meals to gardening to teaching arts and crafts lessons, you can choose how involved you would like to be. On a one-time basis, you can create a “penny war” at your child’s school to collect loose change or sponsor a room at the Ronald McDonald House with coworkers to paint, furnish and decorate. If you are able to devote more time, consider serving on a committee or helping with a golf tournament, auction or other fundraising event. For locations and other volunteer opportunities, visit www.rmhccnaz.org 


Currently the nation is experiencing a critical blood shortage. The best way to make a difference is to find a blood drive near you and roll up your sleeves. The whole process takes about an hour and fifteen minutes but the pint of blood that you donate can be used to help three people. Donations from a healthy donor can be made every 56 days, so donate now and donate often. To learn more about the requirements and to make a donation appointment, go to the American Red Cross website at www.redcrossblood.org


Engaging with the arts — music, theater, dance, paintings, sculpture, photography, etc. — is essential to the human experience. The arts challenge us with different points of view, compel us to empathize with others, and give us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition. Empirical evidence supports that arts participation is related to behaviors that contribute to the health of civil society, such as increased civic engagement and greater social tolerance and have positive effects on our physical health and wellbeing. The local arts groups include the following organizations: Arizona Opera (www.azopera.org), Arizona Theatre Company (www.arizonatheatre.org), Ballet Arizona (www.balletaz.org), Heard Museum (www.heard.org), Phoenix Art Museum (www.phxart.org), The Phoenix Symphony (www.phoenix symphony.org), The Phoenix Theatre Company (www.phoenixtheatre.com), and Scottsdale Arts (www.scottsdalearts.org) among others.


The animals in our community need help too, and the Arizona Humane Society ensures that they are taken care of in many ways. Volunteers at the Humane Society share a compassion for the homeless animals in the Valley, a commitment to create a brighter future for the animals and offer consistent care for the animals. Volunteers help with administrative tasks, admitting animals and even offering foster care to the dogs, cats and other critters including bunnies and guinea pigs. Of course, adopting a pet is always another way to help and will provide the animal with a new, permanent, loving family. To view adoptable animals, make a donation or to learn more about volunteering, visit www.azhumane.org


Help brighten up the troops’ days this holiday season by donating to Packages from Home. Based in the greater Phoenix area, this local charity collects, packs and ships care packages of food, hygiene and entertainment items to soldiers who are stationed overseas and in harm’s way, veterans and military K-9s.This grassroots organization started in 2004 with the sole purpose to send non-perishable food, personal toiletries, books, games, CDs and DVDs at no cost to our deployed troops. There are many ways to help. Some donate money, which goes towards mailing costs or the purchase of special items; others donate items or their time to help pack the donations for shipping. To find out what, where, and ways to donate, visit www.packagesfromhome.org


The Phoenix Rescue Mission provides meals, toiletries and relief from the elements to homeless people in the area through emergency services, recovery programs and the Changing Lives Center for Women and Children. Help is greatly needed and much appreciated and can come in many forms. Volunteer options include serving meals, helping prepare the meals as a sous chef in the kitchen, creating sack meals to be delivered by the Hope Coach or creating a toiletry tote. Through prayer, hope and hard work, the Phoenix Rescue Mission makes life better for people without a home. For more ways to support the mission, visit www.phoenixrescuemission.org