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There are many ways to help needy among us

During the holidays, people feel a little more generous toward their fellow human beings. There are many who do not have some of the things most people in the U.S. take for granted, such as food, money and a warm place to sleep.

For some children, there is no Santa Claus who leaves dozens of neatly wrapped presents.

There are plenty of opportunities locally for people who want to help or people who need help during the holiday season.

Agape Outreach Ministries

Agape Outreach Ministries serves the needy year-round.

It is an outreach program that helps families with immediate physical needs such as food, clothing and household items, and it offers spiritual and financial counseling.

Margaret Sharp, executive director of Agape Ministries, said the organization's name comes from the Greek meaning of "agape" - charity.

During the winter, Agape Ministries provides heaters for families in need. In warmer weather, it offers fans. It also offer school supplies to needy students.

Agape was started in 1992, and recently moved to a new building. Agape Outreach Ministries is a member of the Golden Harvest Food Bank.

Most recently, Agape Ministries was busy providing Thanksgiving dinners to area families. It also serves as a regular food pantry at 317 West Hill Street. The food pantry is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sharp said Agape remains busy year-round, serving more than 450 families, more than 1,000 individuals, each month. Around the holiday season, the number of families served increases to 650 or more.

She said Agape helps between 2,000 and 3,000 people each Christmas.

Those who wish to help can send donations of food, clothing, household items, toys and more to Agape at P.O. Box 308, Thomson, GA 30824.

There is also a drop-off box on the side of the Agape building where donations can be left at any time.

Sharp said they always need volunteers to help sort, organize and hang up clothing, and particularly this time of year there is a great need for toy donations.

Each Christmas, Agape receives between 2,000 and 3,000 toys. They are divided among needy children, who receive three or four apiece. Girls receive dolls and stuffed animals, while boys get basketballs and action figures.

Agape also gives books and other necessities such as socks and toothbrushes.

Sharp said the need is great 12 months out of the year, but doubles or triples during the holiday season.

"It breaks my heart to see a mother or father come in, barely making ends meet," she said. "They can't even buy food, so they definitely don't have enough money for toys for their children."

Sharp said Agape tries to coordinate with other places like Safe Homes and the Salvation Army.

Those seeking help during the holiday season can call Agape Outreach Ministries and make an appointment to fill out an application and talk about need.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army also coordinates a number of volunteer and donation initiatives, especially during the holiday season.

Anthony Esposito, public relations coordinator for the Salvation Army of Augusta, said Christmas is the busiest time of the year for them. The weather gets colder and the need for shelter goes up, he said.

One of the Salvation Army's holiday programs is the Christmas Angel Warehouse, which takes place throughout October, November and December. Families tell the Salvation Army what children ages newborn to 12 need for Christmas, and they put tags on trees in different stores, including six area Walmarts.

The Salvation Army also holds the Red Kettle Campaign each year. This year's campaign began Nov. 10.

The Red Kettle Campaign is the Salvation Army's largest fundraiser. Money raised provides much-needed funding for local programs and social services, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens and job-skills programs. During the 2010 holiday season, more than $200,000 was raised to support year-round human services in the Augusta area.

Volunteers for the campaign ring bells at more than 25 locations in the Augusta area, Monday through Friday from noon until 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Red kettles can be adopted by individuals, churches, schools, civic groups or any other organization for any period of time, from a whole season to a four-hour shift.

To sign up to be a bell ringer or to find out more information about how you can help, contact Katie Atkinson, Volunteer Coordinator, at (706) 826-7933 or kate.atkinson@uss.

There are numerous volunteer opportunities during the holiday season, including Paper and Online kettles. Paper and online kettle programs are two easy ways to support the Salvation Army during the holiday season by offering paper kettles to customers, students, church members and others for a $1 donation. Donors can personalize their paper kettle and see it on display throughout the season. Having an online kettle is similar in that people can invite friends and family via e-mail or social media to make tax-deductible donations online.

Another program the Salvation Army sponsors is the Angel Adoption. To adopt an angel, simply pick up an Angel Tag at a local Walmart after Thanksgiving or contact the Salvation Army directly. Each Angel Tag includes a child's gender, age, clothing size and a "wish gift."

For more information about adopting an Angel this Christmas season, call either Capt. Wilma Mason, Salvation Army of Augusta administrator, at (706) 922-1524, or Anthony Esposito, public relations coordinator, at (706) 922-8338.

"As far as people volunteering, we have tons of people volunteer to ring bells and serve meals," Esposito said. "People really do start thinking of the Salvation Army and ways they can help when Christmastime rolls around."


Another local opportunity to provide a helping hand for the holiday season is MANNA, which stands for Meeting Area Needs Now and Always.

The organization provides food, clothing, home furnishings and financial assistance to those in need in McDuffie and Warren counties. Area churches, individuals and businesses collaborate in support of MANNA, donating time, money and other items.

Lynda Gheesling, the local director of MANNA, said there are many more people in need this year because of the economy.

MANNA provides an extra bag of food to those in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which includes ham, chicken or turkey with all the fixings.

Gheesling said so far the organization has done extremely well. She said they are very blessed with donations, volunteers and organizations that bring in food and money.

"McDuffie County is a very generous county," she said.

Many people and organizations in the county always donate, including Sunday school classes and local businesses, Gheesling said.

During the holiday season, MANNA hosts an adopt-a-family program. Clients fill out a sheet with children's names, ages and the items they want for Christmas. Different organizations and individuals in the community can choose either children or a family to adopt.

MANNA holds a food pantry Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They serve about 1,000 people each month and distribute thousands of pounds of food, Gheesling said.

Those who want to volunteer can fill out a volunteer card, and donations can be made at 421 Hill Street, Thomson, Ga.

Those seeking help from MANNA must live in McDuffie or Warren counties. Gheesling said they need to bring in documentation of income, proof of address and picture identification. For more information on how to help or receive help from MANNA, call (706) 595-3138.

Web posted on Thursday, December 01, 2011

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