Giving back during the holidays

So the holiday season is here again, and for most of us (well, me anyway), that usually means a fun (if somewhat exhausting) month of too much socializing, celebrating, and drinking. And lots and lots of Christmas music. But it’s also important to take a breather from the revelry once in a while and try to remember those who don’t have quite as much to celebrate. I know everyone has their own charitable traditions, and feel free to share yours in the comments section below, but today I’d like to tell you about two of mine.

Every year, the Oakland Mayor’s office sponsors a toy drive to provide gifts for needy kids in the community. Shopping for the toy drive is one of the highlights of my holiday season every year, especially since I have no children in my life, and therefore, no other excuse to visit the Discovery Channel store, which totally rocks my world. (I know, I know! I’m evil and should Shop Oakland. Where is there a toy store?) A friend told me last year that it was mean to buy the needy kids educational toys, but seriously – what little kid doesn’t want to play at dissecting frogs or excavating mammoth bones from a block of ice? Or build a robot or working engine? Everyone loves ant farms and chemistry sets! Anyway, I don’t think it’s mean at all to try to instill in children a sense of curiosity about the world around them or help them experience the thrill of discovery. Besides, those toys look like fun to me.

So, neither of the two notices I’ve seen about the toy drive this year actually mention donating toys, but every year in the past you’ve been able to drop them off at City Hall and all the Fire Stations. I assume it will be the same this year. (I’d call and check, but the City is closed. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.)

If for some reason you have a heart made of stone or something and don’t love hanging out in toy stores, you can always just write a check. The one letter I got from Dellums (PDF) suggested a $5,000 donation, but I’m sure they’ll be happy to accept more modest sums as well. Mail it to:

United Way of the Bay Area, Oakland Toy Drive
Attention: Cashier’s Office
221 Main Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94105

If you have questions, call Susan Hayes-Smith at 238-3139. Donations are tax deductible (Federal Tax ID #94-1313248; State Tax ID #800-3838-4).

Okay, so besides the toy drive, there’s another local organization that really, really, really could use some help for the holidays, and that’s the Alameda County Community Food Bank. The cheapest way to help is to just go and sort some food. You attend a 1 hour orientation first, and then afterwards can help on any weekday and selected Saturdays. The more ambitious among you might want to consider organizing a food drive at your office. If time is more precious than money, then please, try to send some cash their way. They make it super easy – you can donate online. Please consider giving something, even if you don’t have a lot. They can really make a little money go a very long way, so $15 or $20 will stretch a whole lot farther just donating it straight to them than if you went to the store and bought a bunch of cans of fruit cocktail or something.

2 thoughts on “Giving back during the holidays

  1. Brian W.

    Endgame, at 10th & Washington sells a wide variety of games, but also jigsaw puzzles, brain-teasers and other toys. They have a toy donation barrel just inside their front door.

  2. Max Allstadt

    I’ve always supported donations in people’s names instead of gifts. Being a relative acetic, there are very few things in this world that cost under $30 that I need or want, most of them just add clutter. I would love to go local this year. People have been sending alpacas to third world countries on my behalf for a few years now. I’m glad V has shown us a few east bay options that I can suggest instead.