How to share the love in a sea­son of giv­ing

There are still plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to help oth­ers for the hol­i­days

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kate San­tich

At the law of­fices of Rum­berger, Kirk & Cald­well in down­town Or­lando this week, the elves were in over­drive.

Candy canes? Check. Book or mag­a­zine? Check. Socks, snacks, hy­giene sup­plies, plas­tic rein­deer antlers? Check, check, check, check.

In 45 min­utes, em­ploy­ees put to­gether 98 boxes of care pack­ages for troops de­ployed to the Mid­dle East.

“Eleven years ago, my son was de­ployed as a Ma­rine to Iraq … and I would send him care pack­ages,” says Lisa Grif­fin, a le­gal as­sis­tant for the firm. “He started send­ing me notes back — ‘You know that pair of socks? Why don’t you put two or three more pairs in the box? There are peo­ple here who don’t get any­thing.’ So it was re­ally my son who started all this.”

Ben Grif­fin fin­ished that de­ploy­ment, en­listed for a sec­ond, and is now state­side as a re­servist. But his mom, like gen­er­ous peo­ple across Cen­tral Florida, is still try­ing to brighten the hol­i­days for strangers who might oth­er­wise go with­out.

“It’s a project I think that brings our whole firm to­gether,” says manag­ing part­ner Frank Shep­pard. “We found out there’s an air­craft car­rier in the Per­sian Gulf that was sup­posed to be com­ing home for Christ­mas, but they’ve just been ex­tended an ad­di­tional three months … So we have some spe­cial re­quests for them.”

Grif­fin’s project is sup­ported mostly by em­ploy­ees, fel­low law firms and other busi­nesses. More of­ten, though, such ef­forts are or­ches­trated by lo­cal non­prof­its, which of­fer hol­i­day “adop­tion” pro­grams for im­pov­er­ished chil­dren, fam­i­lies flee­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, home­less peo­ple, pets in shel­ters and even en­dan­gered man­a­tees.

Time is run­ning short — The Sal­va­tion Army in Or­lando wrapped up its an­nual An­gel Tree pro­gram, col­lect­ing gifts for 4,000 chil­dren and se­niors, this week. But there are still op­por­tu­ni­ties to help.

New Hope for Kids is pro­vid­ing hol­i­day gifts to more than 500 chil­dren who have lost a par­ent or whose fam­i­lies are strug­gling with over­whelm­ing med­i­cal bills from a se­ri­ous ill­ness. You can find drop-off lo­ca­tions (in­clud­ing Cen­tral Florida Pan­era Bread cafés) for a new, un­wrapped toy as well as fur­ther in­struc­tions and a toy wish list at newhope­forkids.org/toy­drive/. Dead­line: Dec. 16, 7 p.m.

Har­bor House of Cen­tral

Florida is look­ing for vol­un­teers to host a linen drive for fam­i­lies seek­ing refuge from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence by pur­chas­ing or col­lect­ing new pil­lows, pil­low­cases, bath tow­els, blan­kets and a twin or full sheet set. Har­bor House pro­vides new linens to ev­ery fam­ily to use in the shel­ter and to take when the fam­ily leaves for a new home.

The char­ity is also ask­ing for gift cards from Wal­mart, Tar­get, Visa, fast-food restau­rants, gro­cery stores and gas sta­tions to dis­trib­ute to clients. Other needs in­clude laun­dry soap, pet food and sup­plies, canned goods and cell phones.

Dona­tions are ac­cepted week­days 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Satur­day 9 a.m. to noon at the non­profit’s out­reach of­fice, 708 E. Colo­nial Drive, Suite 201, in Or­lando. See har­bor­housefl.com/give­help/get-in­volved/events/ gifts-of-hope/ for de­tails and other gift ideas.

Em­brace Fam­i­lies, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that man­ages foster care, men­tor­ing and adop­tions for Cen­tral Florida youth, needs vol­un­teers to host toy drives for chil­dren and ful­fill the hol­i­day wishes of 147 teens and young adults, ages 18 to 22 — who are of­ten over­looked dur­ing the hol­i­days. It has an Amazon.com wish list, or you can shop on your own.

In ad­di­tion, the agency needs vol­un­teers for its up­com­ing hol­i­day party and toy dis­tri­bu­tions on Wed­nes­day, Satur­day and Dec. 21. For wish lists, de­tails and sign-up in­for­ma­tion, go to em­brace­fam­i­lies.org/a-sea­son-for-giv­ing.

The Third An­nual Sweater & Socks Christ­mas, an event to help home­less in­di­vid­u­als, takes place Satur­day from noon to 4 p.m. at the Cal­la­han Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Or­lando. Or­ga­nized by the non­profit CORE of Or­lando and Or­lando City Com­mis­sioner Regina Hill, the event will pro­vide more than 250 new sweaters, socks, gloves and hats as well as hot meals and health screen­ings to the home­less. To do­nate, you can use Cash App ($Mcken­zie1990), Zelle (407-406-9640) or email core­o­for­[email protected] Vol­un­teers are also needed to do­nate their time for the event. De­tails: face­book.com/WestLakesT­alk.

The Pet Al­liance of

Greater Or­lando, which has more than 400 an­i­mals in its care at the mo­ment, is ask­ing for pet food dona­tions through­out De­cem­ber. The food not only helps fe­line and ca­nine res­i­dents of the non­profit’s shel­ters in Or­lando and San­ford; it also sup­ports the AniMeals on Wheels pro­gram and a pet food pantry that keeps more than 900 pets in their homes and out of the shel­ter.

To do­nate, drop off sup­plies at ei­ther 2727 Con­roy Road in Or­lando or 2800 County Home Rd. in San­ford, or make a con­tri­bu­tion on­line at petal­liance­or­lando.org/ways-give/do­nate/.

Fi­nally, you can “adopt” any of 30 or so man­a­tees through the non­profit

Save the Mana­tee Club — if only in spirit. Mem­ber­ship adop­tions lev­els start at $25 and fea­ture a “per­son­al­ized” adop­tion packet with adop­tion cer­tifi­cate, photo and life his­tory of your mana­tee as well as a mem­ber­ship hand­book of mana­tee facts and a wall cal­en­dar. Ship­ping is free within the U.S.

Pro­ceeds from the hol­i­day gift adop­tions help the char­ity fund pub­lic aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion; spon­sor re­search, res­cue and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef­forts; ad­vo­cate for strong pro­tec­tion mea­sures; and take le­gal ac­tion when ap­pro­pri­ate. Or­der by Fri­day to en­sure de­liv­ery of adop­tion pack­age by Christ­mas. De­tails: savethe­m­ana­tee.org/howto-help/adopt-a-mana­tee/.

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SENTINEL

Em­ploy­ees from the law firm of Rum­berger, Kirk & Cald­well as­sem­ble hol­i­day care pack­ages for U.S. troops serv­ing abroad.

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