Oklahoma nonprofits and charitable organizations provide necessary services and outreach to those in-need year-round. This December, several local organizations are rolling out festive programs that aim to make it a joyful holiday season for all. To make these programs possible, these organizations rely on a robust volunteer base and the generosity of others.
“The holiday season can really instill a lot of hope that the future is brighter,” says Margaret Creighton, president and CEO at OKC’s Positive Tomorrows. From gift-wrapping to bell ringing to donations, there are a variety of ways for people to make a difference.
The Salvation Army
Serving over 131 countries, the Salvation Army is the evangelical arm of the Christian church that provides a wide range of services and disaster relief to those in need. Every Christmas, the organization holds its Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns to spread cheer.
Each of these programs has been a staple of the Salvation Army’s holiday programs for many years. In the spirit of carrying on these traditions, the Tulsa Area Command is in need of approximately 1,000 volunteers this month. Those interested in the Angel Tree program can sign up to process and sort gifts at the Joy Center, or assist with the Angel Tree booth at Woodland Hills Mall.
“It’s really a fun time, and a busy time, when we involve a lot of volunteers in something very meaningful,” says Wayde Normandin, volunteer and disaster resource manager.
The Salvation Army is also looking for 250 individuals to participate in its Red Kettle Challenge, which is a new spin on the bell-ringing tradition; those who sign up for the challenge will have a goal to raise $1,000 by Dec. 24. Collected donations will go towards feeding and providing rent and mortgage assistance to those who are struggling. To learn more about these and other volunteer opportunities, check out salarmytulsa.org.
The Tulsa Day Center
Founded in 1986, the Tulsa Day Center operates with a mission to serve those who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. The organization provides emergency shelter, clothing and hygiene items, rental and move-in assistance, and other services that meet its clients’ general needs.
For 2022, the Tulsa Day Center has opened over 18,000 new client files, serving an average of 200-400 clients daily. To meet this demand, the Tulsa Day Center needs donations to help its clients get through the winter season.
Most-needed items include clothing – such as socks and underwear – along with towels and bedding. Those interested in donating or learning about other charitable opportunities can visit tulsadaycenter.org/give-help.
In 1981, a group of community leaders wanted to provide in-need families with a dignified, no-cost shopping experience in a department store setting, in which they could pick out gifts for the holidays. Led by Barbara Fagin, this group of leaders collected donated goods and set up shop in an abandoned warehouse, eventually serving 363 families.
This shopping experience became known as Christmas Connection, and it is the origin story of Sharing Tree. Although the organization has expanded since its humble start, Christmas Connection remains a fixture of its programming. This year marks Sharing Tree’s 41st annual Christmas Connection, and its goal is to serve 500 metro-area families.
From Dec. 1-14, Sharing Tree holds its shopping days, and it needs volunteers to help stock the warehouse and assist families with shopping. Those interested in volunteering can visit sharingtreeok.org/christmas.
Sharing Tree also accepts donations for brand-new, unwrapped toys and gently used or new clothing in all sizes for its Christmas Connection program. To view the Sharing Tree’s full list of acceptable gifts, go to sharingtreeok.org/toylist.
Child Abuse Network
Located in Tulsa, the Child Abuse Network (CAN) provides collaborative intervention services to child abuse victims, aiming to help kids embrace a future driven by hope. Since its founding in 1988, the organization has served over 40,000 children.
CAN encourages others to support those in need this holiday season by hosting a comfort item drive. At these drives, volunteers collect stuffed animals and blankets, which often provide emotional relief to children who are experiencing trauma. CAN distributes comfort items to approximately 150 kids each month at its Children Advocacy Center. To learn how to get involved, visit childabusenetwork.org.
Positive Tomorrows is a fully accredited private school and social services agency that serves children and families who are experiencing homelessness and/or poverty. This holiday season, the organization holds its Merry Market and Christmas Carnival, two of its ongoing holiday traditions that empower its 378 clients.
Beginning Dec. 10, the organization kicks off its week-long Merry Market. The market consists of two shopping centers, one for parents and one for children. Clients can shop for unique gifts free of charge, and receive assistance with gift wrapping.
“We give our families the gift of choice,” says Creighton. “Volunteers are a huge part of that, whether it’s wrapping gifts or helping us to set up the store.”
Then, on Dec. 16, Positive Tomorrows holds its Christmas Carnival, which gives families the opportunity to celebrate the holidays while enjoying carnival-style activities. To pull off this event, the organization seeks volunteers to set up booths and host activities. Those interested in participating can visit positivetomorrows.org for more information.
“The joy that these two events bring is tremendous,” says Creighton. “[Our kids]…make some amazing memories that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Spreading Holiday Cheer