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Season of Giving

The need for giving continues to rise as the temperature begins to drop and the holidays near. Here are local organizations within a 10-mile radius of TJC that students can volunteer/donate to this season.

East Texas Food Bank Sign
The East Texas Food Bank provided 25 million meals in 2021. Photo by Connor Mason

East Texas Food Bank

The East Texas Food Bank is an organization that accepts year-round donations to help feed those in need.
Rebecca Berkley, director of communications and marketing for the East Texas Food Bank, shares the history behind the organization.

“We were founded here in Tyler in 1988, and we exist to fight hunger and feed hope in East Texas and hope to have one day a hunger-free East Texas. We serve 26 counties in East Texas,” Berkley said. “So we are the ones who get the different food products. And then we distribute those to our 200 partner agencies and food programs. And so then the clients actually go to those locations and actually go through a pantry and can get food.”

Berkley shares that The East Texas Food Bank provided 25 million meals in 2021.The organization accepts financial donations and physical food donations.

“If you’re wanting to give a financial donation, you can go to our website, which is easttexasfoodbank.org and there is a donate now button on there and it will lead you through the steps to do that,” Berkley said. “If you want to give any gifts of food, you can bring those here to our location. We don’t do any pickups. But if people want to donate some bags of shelf-stable foods, such as peanut butter, canned tuna, beans, rice, things that are easy for us to distribute to people.”

The organization also accepts individuals who are interested in volunteering. Those interested in volunteering can visit easttexasfoodbank.org and click on the ‘volunteer’ link. The website provides a volunteer calendar and additional information on each available shift. Individual and group volunteer opportunities are available.

“We use volunteers to help like pack our boxes and do different things like that. We have to keep it limited how many can volunteer each day because of all the COVID restrictions,” Berkley said. “But we do want people to take a look at that. And if they have a group or a club, and they want to all come together and do it some time, we would really welcome that.”

Berkley also explains the food pantry provided by The East Texas Food Bank is open to college students who may be in need of food as well.

“There’s also a feature on our website that says “find food” at the very top. You can put in the zip code that you’re in and it can show you the locations of our pantries,” Berkley said. “And that way you know, there’s many college kids out there and maybe they’re struggling right now and don’t have enough, you know, to eat. We also want them to be aware of ways that they also can get food.”

For more information about The East Texas Food Bank, visit easttexasfoodbank.org.

Over 40 familiar red kettles can be found scattered throughout Tyler. Photo by Connor Mason

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is also an organization that accepts donations year round. The Salvation Army also has a seasonal donation opportunity known as the Red Kettle campaign. Red kettles are set up at 43 locations across Tyler for monetary donations.

Cindy Bell, director of development, explains there are a variety of ways to donate to the Salvation Army. These include online donations at salvationarmytexas.org/tyler/, or by mail to P.O. Box 2050, Tyler 75710 or in person at 633 North Broadway Tyler, TX. Donations can also be made seasonally at any red kettle location.

“I think donations made to the Salvation Army have a great impact on those that we’re able to serve and help,” Bell said. “Locally, 87 cents of every dollar goes directly into the programs that we’re able to offer. So giving to the Salvation Army really allows your donation to go further.”

Bell explains the funds given to the Salvation Army provide a variety of assistance such as pantry items, shelter and clothing. In addition to donating, individuals can also help the organization by volunteering.

“There are other ways to give. Monetarily is wonderful, but true volunteer service is excellent, especially this time of year. And, you know, students certainly can volunteer to ring the bell at wonderful local kettle locations,” Bell said. “We’ve got an online registration website where you can choose the day and the location and the shifts that you would like to ring.”

To find out more about shifts and locations to ring the bell, visit registeredtoring.com. Bell mentions she has 12,000 hours to fill.
For more information regarding The Salvation Army and how to help, visit salvationarmytexas.org/tyler/.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County

Building and sign for Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County has sponsored over 40 families in need for the coming holiday season. Photo by Connor Mason

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County is ensuring the families at the CAC have an eventful Christmas by doing the Holiday of Hope campaign.

Emily Gerhart, community outreach coordinator, explained Holiday of Hope is much like Angel Tree for their organization.

“Our family advocates and therapists kind of screen our families that we currently have at the CAC that would be good candidates for Holiday of Hope families and then we have them fill out a wishlist for each child in that household,” Gerhart said.

Gerhart explains once they receive the wishlists from the family they then distribute those to the sponsors. “We then send that out to our sponsors who then shop for that family, or if they donate to us, we have volunteers at the CAC who will do the shopping for that donor,” Gerhart said.

Gerhart also mentions the organization tries to have all presents that have been provided in the hands of the family the first few weeks of December to allow the family time to wrap them and get them ready for Christmas.

“We’ve been doing it for quite a number of years. And currently, we have 43 families who are signed up to be Holiday of Hope families, and we do still have families in need of sponsors at this time,” Gerhart said.

Anyone can sign up to sponsor the families as well as decide how many children they would like to sponsor.

“So we were able to accommodate whatever the sponsors are comfortable with, whether it’s an entire family of six or one child, that’s totally something that we can do for those people who would like to be a part of the Holiday of Hope program,” Gerhart said.

The program is already underway and the organization is currently sending out wishlists to sponsors. Anyone interested in learning more or sponsoring the Holiday of Hope can contact the Children’s Advocacy Center at 903-533-1880.

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