Gratitude: the gift that keeps giving

There are numerous local opportunities for students to give back to the community this holiday season.

Director of the North Alabama Christian Children’s Home Don Williams said the home offers a few chances for local people to help.

“We have 15 children ages 7 to 19,” he said. “(We have) nine boys and six girls. Our children come to us from anywhere in the state of Alabama. They’ve come out of homes where they have been abused, abandoned and — or — neglected. They often come to us through the Department of Human Resources.”

The children always appreciate gift cards, he said. Some requests are Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Martin’s and GameStop.

The Florence home also offers volunteer opportunities, he said.

People can rake leaves, sweep and do general outside cleaning, he said.

The Salvation Army Angel Tree is another opportunity to give to local children. There is one in the Florence Mall, as well as the Student Government Association offices in the Guillot University Center.

Junior Spencer Woods said he adopts an angel from the Angel Tree whenever he can.

He and his girlfriend, junior Anna Glosemeyer, adopted two angels this year, he said.

“There are kids out there that need help more than I do,” he said. “I’m in college. I’ve got it good.”

Some parents work hard to provide what their children need but are not financially able to provide the extras they may want, he said.

“It’s always good to help out other people,” he said.

Room in the Inn Shoals offers a place for anyone needing a place to sleep, as well as volunteer opportunities, said Director Krista Manchester.

Room in the Inn will be open its usual hours during the holiday break with additional hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, she said.

“We will be open throughout the day and on those holiday days because the library will be closed,” she said.

Anyone needing a place to stay is encouraged to be at the intake center at 104 S. Poplar St. by 4 p.m., she said.

The intake center will remain open each morning until 9 a.m. while it is cold, she said.

Manchester said those interested in volunteering can request an application through email or visit the website

The center needs volunteers during the regular shifts from 3:45 to 6:15 p.m., she said.

Geography professor Lisa Keys-Mathews said First Methodist Church in downtown Florence welcomes volunteers and is within walking distance of campus.

“It’s the season for giving and it’s important to give back to our community,” she said.

The church prepares and delivers meals to shut-ins on Christmas Eve, she said.

Volunteers prepare the meals two to three days before Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Eve morning they put the meals together and deliver them, she said.

“We have it all set up so if somebody comes in and wants to deliver, we give them a map, they pick up their meals and then they go,” she said.

Keys-Mathews said she never realized how many people in the community go without a good meal during the holidays until she started helping at the church 10 years ago.

The number of students willing to help others impresses her, she said.

“This generation of students seems to be very interested in helping other people,” she said. “There are just a lot of good hearts and good minds in this generation of students that we have on campus right now for wanting to give back.”

Anyone wanting to volunteer can email her for more information, she said.