Another holiday season of giving is gone. You've made your annual donation, and delivered cans to the local food bank. You've got your good karma sorted out for the year ... right?
One third of charitable donations in Canada are made in December. But the needs of others don't cease when we put away the ornaments. Did you know, come January, millions of Canadians and Americans lose their jobs, putting pressure on shelters? Did you know there are more orphaned kittens in the spring and more hungry school children in the summer? As you make New Years' resolutions, consider how the needs in your community peak throughout the year.
There is more than one season of need; there should be multiple seasons of giving.
January is National Mentoring Month. Why not kick off the year by becoming a role model? In addition to its one-on-one mentoring, Big Brothers and Sisters also runs group programs. With "Go Girls!" and "Game On!," volunteers lead groups of 12 to 14-year-olds in fitness activities, and teach healthy eating habits and communication skills. The eight to 10 week program is tied to the school year, so every January, (and again in September), Big Brothers and Sisters is on the hunt for volunteers for just two hours per week.
January is also the month of buyer's remorse — even for furry friends given as presents but returned to animal shelters. Humane Societies and other caregivers need funds, pet food and volunteers to walk dogs on cold winter days. Spring brings "kitten season." Shelters are inundated with thousands of newborn felines needing food and veterinary care.
Come June, short-term women's shelters especially need financial support
As spring warms to summer, some kids can't wait to escape the classroom. For others, the end of the school year also means the end of school breakfast and lunch programs. Families who rely on the programs turn to food banks to ensure their children have enough to eat. Consider supporting your local food bank after the frost, with food items and funds, and even a few volunteer hours to help sort and deliver donations.
Survivors of domestic abuse will often wait until school's out to leave their partners, to give their children some stability before their lives are turned upside down, according to Women's Shelters Canada. Come June, short-term women's shelters especially need financial support, and donated items like diapers and women's sanitary products. You can find and support local shelters through Sheltersafe.ca.
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If you want to help vulnerable young people have a better summer, YMCA is always on the hunt for counsellors and support staff to help run its camps for low-income children and youth. Coach a YMCA children's basketball or soccer class, or teach swimming if you have your certification. Basically, you can relive the summer camps of your own youth.
These are broad national trends. Every community, and every community organization, will have its own unique needs and timetables. Resources like your local United Way and community centres can help connect you with the causes in your neighbourhood that need your support throughout the year.
'Tis the season of giving — all year long.
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