‘Tis the Season to Give Back

The amount of money Americans spend on Christmas every year is astonishing. According to predictions made by the National Retail Federation, this year’s holiday sales will increase by 4.1% over 2011, topping out at approximately $586 billion. Despite a failing economy, Americans still find the means to far outspend their holiday budgets. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Instead of spending your money on gifts that will soon be outdated or forgotten, spend your time and money helping someone in need this holiday season.

1. Women in Distress of Broward Country, Inc.
Women in Distress of Broward County, Inc. is the only nationally accredited, state-certified, full service domestic violence center serving Broward County. WID offers 24-hour crisis intervention through their 24-Hour Crisis Hotline and emergency center, as well as providing counseling and support for victims of domestic violence and their children. This holiday season, WID is asking individuals and local businesses to consider hosting a donation drive to help give hope to families affected by domestic violence. WID is asking for holiday donations that include toys for children ages infant-17, gifts for parents (children will select special gifts to give to their parents), gift wrap and gift cards. For drop-off dates, locations and hours, visit womenindistress.org. If you want to donate online, visit womenindistress.org/donate.

2. Angel Tree
Angel Tree is program of Prison Fellowship that connects children and their incarcerated parents through the delivery of Christmas gifts. Get involved by signing up online and becoming your church’s point of contact or Angel Tree Coordinator for the Angel Tree program. You will then receive the names of children who were signed up for the program by their mom or dad in prison. You can display the name tags of these children and gift suggestions at your church or workplace. You can then notify your congregation, co-workers, friends, family and others and invite them to select a child’s tag from your Angel Tree tags. Those who take the tags are responsible for purchasing, wrapping and delivering a gift for each child that they choose on behalf of the child’s incarcerated parent. In the process, the gift-giver has the opportunity to share the greatest gift one could ever receive: the gospel of Jesus Christ. For further information, visit angeltree.org/christmas.

3. Love in Action Homeless Ministry
Many of us take for granted our homes, food supply, beds, air conditioning and more. This holiday season, reach out to those who are less fortunate than you and be reminded of the things you so often forget to be thankful for. Love in Action is a ministry of Christ Church that serves the homeless year-round. Every Thursday afternoon, a team of volunteers gathers in CC’s Fort Lauderdale kitchen to prepare meals for the homeless, which are then delivered to Hope Central on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. At Hope Central, another team of volunteers serves nearly 200 homeless individuals and families who are treated as guests to a full-course, sit-down meal. The Hope Central team collects prayer requests from the guests. To read more about Love in Action, visit loveinactionfeeding.blogspot.com. To volunteer, or for more information, contact Dianne Bessette at 954-691-8754 or email [email protected].

There are many opportunities to serve others all around you this season. Visit the elderly and the homebound from your church. Pick a charity and volunteer your time or money. Take your neighbor’s kids with you to a holiday event. Or, simply spend time praying for the people around you. Mark 10:25 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” God invites us to be a part of what he is doing in the lives of others through serving. Respond to the opportunities and people he has placed in your life. Instead of focusing on finding the best holiday sales and vacation getaways, focus on the mission that the author of life has given to you: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (I Peter 4:10).

Madison is a high school senior and aspiring journalist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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