Twinkling yard decorations and satiny snowflakes start to appear, just as the last Thanksgiving leftovers disappear from the fridge. Upbeat renditions of Jingle Bells and Let It Snow play in every store you walk into, and beautifully ornamented trees appear in all the neighbors’ windows. It’s a time of fuzzy socks and hot cocoa, of finding that perfect gift for your mom or dad. Of course, for us as college students, it’s also a stressful time of looming project deadlines and end-of-semester responsibilities. It might be easy to get caught up in our own holiday plans and study schedules, but it’s important to remember that this is the season of giving—especially to those in need this holiday season. So in between studying and scrambling for that last minute gift, here are a few ways to support organizations in Johnson County as they strive to make everyone’s holiday as bright as it can be.
Project Holiday at the Johnson County Crisis Center
The Johnson County Crisis Center uses the donations given to Project Holiday to purchase holiday meals for local families in need this season. A $25 donation completes a meal for one family, and they accept donations through the end of the year. This might seem like a lot of money as a college student, but round up a few friends, and at $5 each you could help a family enjoy a meal together over the holidays. You can find more information, or make your donation here: https://www.jccrisiscenter.org/project-holiday/
Holiday Store at the Domestic Violence Intervention Program
Every year, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program hosts a Holiday Store, where families can safely shop and find gifts for their loved ones. You can help someone find the perfect gift by donating an item from Santa’s Wish List, found at the bottom of this site: https://dvipiowa.org/event/holiday-gift-drive-2018/. The list includes a variety of toys and games such as Hot Wheels cars, craft kits, and Uno cards—and several other easy items to grab on your next Target run. On this site you can also find a number of donation drop-off locations, and more information about the program.
Holiday with the Hounds hosted by the Iowa City Animal Center
Of course, we can’t forget our furry friends also in need this holiday season! The Iowa City Animal Center hosts Holiday with the Hounds, a donation drive where you can donate any number of items from the animals’ Wish List: http://icanimalcenter.org/pages/support-us/donation-wishlist.php. During the event, the adoptable animals even have stockings hung outside their kennels where you can leave them toys and treats! And if you can’t make it to the event, you can always make your donation at the Animal Center anytime during their regular business hours.
Johnson County Toys for Tots
Another great way to help brighten someone’s holiday season is by donating to Toys for Tots. You can find a list of suggested toys here: https://iowa-city-ia.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/local-print-forms-print.aspx?formsID=352. The list gives several examples of toys for a variety of ages, from newborn to 15. So have some fun exploring the toy section next time you’re out shopping, and help support a good cause. You can also find a list of toy drop-off sites in the area here: https://iowa-city-ia.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/donate-toys.aspx
Iowa City Shelter House
The Shelter House is always in need of donations, but with the cold and snowy weather, they can use even more help providing jackets and warm clothes to those in need. You can find a full list of their current greatest needs here: https://shelterhouseiowa.org/greatest-needs/. Just remember to call ahead or fill out their inquiry form before you drop off your donation!
UI Children’s Hospital
The kids at the UI Children’s Hospital and their families always appreciate donations of toys, games, and clothing, but especially around the holidays. You can find a full list of popular items here: https://uichildrens.org/donate-items. If you’re planning on making a donation to the Children’s Hospital, don’t forget to look at their guidelines and unacceptable items on the same site, to make sure your donation has the best chance of making someone’s day.
Of course, there are many other programs and organizations that support people in need over the holidays. By giving to any one of these programs, you can strengthen the holiday spirit, not only for others but in yourself. This is the season of giving, after all. So, as you gear up for the end of the semester and the excitement of holiday lights and music, wrapped presents and home-cooked meals, don’t forget to pass a little love onto someone else this holiday season.