By Holly Huntley
By Holly Huntley
With another holiday season knocking at the door, Americans can follow the motto of the American Red Cross: “Help others feel good by helping you feel good about yourself.”
To accomplish that feeling, food and toy drives are being held all over the nation to provide for the homeless, and many local organizations find this holiday season the best time of year to gain support.
An Urban Institute study for 2002 stated every year 3.5 million Americans become homeless, 1.3 million of those being children. That means more than 1 million children may not receive a holiday present this year.
Riverside Community College’s student government is doing its part to fill some of those children’s hands by holding a festive charity event on the Riverside campus for the upcoming holidays.
Students can participate at the Bradshaw Student Center where student government has set up a Christmas tree decorated in ornaments, each with a written description of a little boy or girl between the ages of infancy to young teenager. Each student may choose one of these ornaments from the tree which will give them an idea of what would be a suitable gift for a child of that gender and age. Typical items to donate include clothing, children’s books, packaged toys, stuffed animals, age-appropriate learning materials or anything else that would bring joy to these underprivileged children for the holiday season.
Student government asks that gifts be left in the Student Center where they will be sent to an orphanage before the holidays.
RCC’s student government is not the only local group that is conducting a food and toy drive during the holidays.
Shelters for the Homeless is a nationwide association that can direct people to homeless shelters in their area and offer ways for people to actively participate by volunteering at nearby community centers. They are always accepting contributions and donations can be made at http://www.SheltersfortheHomeless.org, a tax-exempt organization deductible for computing income and estate taxes.
The American Red Cross Association is an another well known organization that assists victims of disaster and homelessness. Due to a number of complications for relief efforts the Red Cross is unable to accept any large collections of items such as clothing or furniture; however, it accepts online monetary donations at http://www.redcross.org, “bulk donations” of single products or any necessary medical supplies. Shipping is costly; therefore, it has a local Riverside county chapter that can be reached by telephone at (951) 656-4218 and located near downtown Riverside.
The National Coalition for the Homeless is one of the major organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness. It was founded on the principles that people need affordable housing, livable incomes, health care, education and protection of their civil rights. It claims it’s their mission to “end homelessness
Anyone interested can use the directory online at http://www.nationalhomeless.org to find a local homeless service organization where they can volunteer or donate goods.
The NCH conducts national research studies to provide statistics in the United States and address possible solutions to the rising problem of homelessness.
These organizations are a few of the thousands that were created to help Americans realize just how crucial the problem of homelessness is in this country. They urge all citizens to take part in these charities to decrease the growing problem as much as possible.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “No matter what your skills, interests, age or resources, there are ways you can make a difference for some of the men, women and children who are homeless.”
RCC student Kristen Poucher has been contributing to the homeless for the past few years since she has become aware of the problem
“Donating is rewarding for both yourself and the people you are helping,” she said.
There are around 1,700 homeless people in Riverside County. If the 20,000 students who attend RCC each semester set an example like Poucher and contributed this year to their local charity center, this college alone could provide for 10 times the amount of homeless people in this community.
In 1999, Congress made it a priority to improve the access homeless people have to mainstream programs and this has been upheld by participating charity groups.
More Americans are taking the time and concern to donate to these numerous organizations. With local charities and groups like the RCC student government, the Riverside community has made donating food, toys and other possessions very accessible for homeless people this holiday season.
For any other information students can call permanent housing organizations and other homeless service agencies in the Riverside County area via the Internet or through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provider in Riverside County at (909) 358-5636.