As holidays arrive, share your blessings to help the needy

The holiday season is upon us.

While nonprofits in the community serve those in need year-round, demand for donations of time, money and goods quickens around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At Southwest Emergency Services, which is primarily supported through donations and a thrift shop on its premises behind Arbutus United Methodist Church, the nonprofit last year provided $60,452 to prevent utility shutoffs for 240 clients, an increase from $44,858 in 2010.

One of its goals is to keep people from becoming homeless. By helping with utility, rent, gas and grocery expenses, it helps those in need stay in their homes.

The nonprofit has no beds, nor does it give out meals. But for the homeless, it provides a shower and toiletries, clean clothing and a small bag of uncooked food.

Southwest Emergency Services holds its annual toy giveaway day Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. by invitation only. It typically helps 600 children in the area in need, according to director Betty Okonski.

It still seeks new, unwrapped toys and will accept donations until Dec. 7. Companies that wish to conduct a toy drive for the cause can call the center at 410-247-8154.

The nonprofit has been distributing invitations since Oct. 1 — which can be obtained through referrals from its clients or local schools — and will accept them up until the day of the distribution.

The center allows parents to shop for themselves to pick toys their children would like, along with free gift wrapping, Okonski said.

The Maryland Food Bank, based in Halethorpe, gives out more than 120,000 meals per day to those in need in 21 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

According to the nonprofit, 760,300 people are unable to consistently access nutritious food in the state.

The food bank distributed 44.2 million meals in its fiscal 2015, in increase from 36.8 million in 2014 and 28.8 million in 2013.

Some of the programs the food bank operates include FoodWorks, a 12-week intensive culinary training for low-income individuals, its school pantry program, which distributes food to food-insecure children and their families from schools, and its Supper Club and Summer Club programs, which provide meals for students during after school activities and the summer, respectively.

For more information, contact the Halethorpe office at 410-737-8282.

There are many other providers in the area that need help in the season of giving and shared blessings.

Baltimore Humane Society — an independent, nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter, which offers low-cost veterinary care to the public, and a pet cemetery with grief support services. 410-833-8848 www.bmorehumane.org.

Wish List: Non clumping cat litter, paper towels, dog treats, laundry detergent, dish detergent, latex gloves, science diet brand foods, treats (soft/chewy), peanut butter, kong stuffing, vitamin C tablets for guinea pigs, Timothy Hay bedding, shredded paper, Carefresh Ultra (for small animals), janitorial supplies, Clorox Germicidal Bleach, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, mop heads, scrub brushes (with long handle attachment), spray bottles, dog toys, cat toys, cardboard cat scratchers, puppy pads and Feliway spray. For the Bmore Kind Pet Food Bank: Cat food (dry, any variety) and dog food (dry, any brand), (Opened or Closed bags are OK for the food bank). http://bmorehumane.org/donate/.

Believe In Tomorrow National Children's Foundation — provides hospital and retreat housing services for critically ill children and their families. The Believe In Tomorrow Children's House at Johns Hopkins offers families a sense of home where they can stay for days or weeks at a time while their child undergoes treatment or surgery for a life threatening illness. Believe In Tomorrow also offers families five beach and mountain retreat homes, which they can utilize year-round, free of charge, to renew their spirits and reconnect as a family. Believe In Tomorrow's unique programs bring comfort, hope and joy to critically ill children and their families. 410-744-1032. www.believeintomorrow.org.

Wish List: Keurig K-cups (coffee, tea, hot chocolate), granola bars, individual snack bags (chips, popcorn), individual cereal cups, Duraflame logs, paper plates, paper coffee cups and lids, plastic silverware, disposable food containers, paper towels, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, Clorox wipes and furniture steam cleaner.

Casey Cares Foundation — provides uplifting and on-going programs for critically ill children and their families throughout Mid-Atlantic region. 443-568-0064. CaseyCares.org.

Wish List: $10 or $25 gift cards for Target, Walmart, Ledo Pizza, Pizza Hut, Red Lobster, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Panera. $10 or $25 gift cards for Redbox, AMC and Regal Theaters or Fandango. New, two-piece pajamas (adult and infant sizes are needed most).

The Franciscan Center — provides a broad range of services to persons who are economically disadvantaged to assist them in moving toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. 410-467-5340. www.franciscancenterbaltimore.org.

Wish List: Warm clothes (jackets, boots, socks, mittens, gloves, knit hats, scarves), toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, tooth brushes, wash cloths, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, etc.), non-perishable food for the pantry, children's Items (clothes, toys, formula, diapers), money to run the programs.

Gallagher Services — opening doors for individuals with developmental disabilities through group homes in the community and a medical day program. 410-252-4005. www.cc-md.org.

Wish List: Monetary donations made at www.cc-md.org/donatenow, bath towels [new], twin bed linens [new], blenders, food processors, cookware sets, flashlights, puzzles with large pieces, art supplies, office desks, office supplies, shrubs and flowers for landscaping, mulch, skill-building computer games, Nintendo Wii system, Wii games, karaoke machine with microphone, earphones [big], walk-man or iPods [music players], colorful pictures to hang on the wall, heavy duty paper shredders, vacuum cleaners [commercial type], PC Computer w/ Microsoft office, printers, V-tech tablets.

House of Ruth Maryland — provides comprehensive services to victims of intimate domestic violence and their families. 410-889-0840. www.hruth.org.

Wish List: New wash cloths, wire hair brushes, deodorant, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), new undershirts (sizes 24 months to 3T), new boys undergarments, all sizes (including men's for the older boys), new girls undergarments (size 2T-6X), new girls socks (toddler sizes), new socks and undergarments for women and children, new pillows, new twin-size blankets, comforters and sheet sets, new air mattresses, baby wipes, pampers (sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6, Pull-ups sizes 4T, 5T and 6T), crib sheets for small cribs and cots, crib sheets that fit mattresses sized 23 3/8 x 37 1/4 (not standard size), new infant and toddler sleepwear, infant and toddler toys, play mats, rattles, baby mirrors, stacking cups and boxes, Jack in the boxes, Lego duplo, Fisher-Price Learning toys, nesting blocks, new socks and undergarments for women and children, gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations, department stores (Walmart, Target, etc.) and non-perishable food (peanut butter and jelly, tuna, cereal, pasta, granola bars, juice boxes, etc.)

Maryland CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children), 402 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, 3rd Floor, Towson, MD 21204 www.MarylandCASA.org /ed@marylandcasa.org. Provides more than 1,000 trained volunteer advocates for more than 1,500 children and youth who are under court protection due to abuse and neglect, ensuring their right to safe, permanent homes. Far more children and youth need our help.

Wish List: gift cards (Target, Walmart, etc.) for holiday gifts for children and youth, as well as to help older foster youth who are leaving foster care to set up their own households, office supplies to assist youth in their job search or to pursue college, office/training supplies to train additional volunteers, etc. Tax-deductible donations are also welcome at http://marylandcasa.org/get-involved/make-a-donation/ or above address, and we are always in need of volunteers to serve as advocates, assist in the office, help with fundraising and public awareness, etc. (http://marylandcasa.org/get-involved/).

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland — provides nutritious meals to homebound individuals since 1960. 410-558-0827. www.mealsonwheelsmd.org.

Wish List: Homebound Health Kits, adult diapers (Pull-ups: sizes M, L, & XL not tabbed), anti-bacterial liquid soap, adult wipes/towelettes, deodorant, body lotion, tissues, shampoo, comb/hairbrush, toothbrush/toothpaste, back-Up boxes, boost or ensure (plain, vanilla and chocolate), canned goods (corn, beans, stew, fruit, etc), canned chicken, tuna or salmon, crackers/cheese crackers, peanut butter/peanut butter crackers, cereal, mac 'n cheese jelly, single servings of fruit cups/applesauce, soup - vegetable/ chicken noodle, fruit juice (single serving size), ultra high temperature (UHT) milk, high protein items, dishwashing liquid, paper towels, laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning wipes, dish towels, flash lights, non-skid socks and magnet clips.

NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore — provides education, support, and advocacy to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by mental illness in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. All programs are free, confidential, and peer-led. Donations can be made online at www.namibaltimore.org or by mail to 6600 York Road, Suite 204, Baltimore, MD 21212.

Wish List: Monetary donations and gift cards (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, grocery stores) are needed to create a mental health education library and to support volunteer training. Volunteers are needed to share their time and talents in a number of roles, including program facilitators, mentors, presenters, and HelpLine volunteers. Contact volunteer@namibaltimore.org.

Salvation Army — The Salvation Army operates three Boys and Girls Clubs in central Maryland, which provide children and youth with educational, spiritual and recreational programs.

Wish List: cash donations, volunteers, sporting equipment, video games, educational material and beauty supplies.

St. Vincent's Villa — A residential treatment center that provides comprehensive therapeutic services to children whose behavioral and emotional needs have not responded to interventions and services provided at home or in the community. St. Vincent's Villa is located at 2600 Pot Spring Road, Timonium. 410-252-4000, ext. 1672. www.catholiccharities-md.org/st-vincents-villa/

Wish List: Stress balls, Lego sets, journals suitable for boys or girls (not notebooks), card games (Uno cards, Phase 10, Skip-Bo, playing cards), action figures, gift cards for children's activities (AMF Bowling, Regal Cinema, Red Zone, Pulaski Highway Go-Carts, Skateland, Baltimore Aquarium, MD Science Center), gift cards for off-ground dining (Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, Chick Fil-A, Pizza Hut, Coldstone Creamery).

United Churches Assistance Network — (UCAN) provides emergency financial assistance to families and individuals in the Northern Baltimore County area, to prevent evictions and utility turnoffs. Networking and referrals to other organizations also provided. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 410-628-2102.

Wish List: Money, gift cards to food stores, Target and Walmart.

—John Fischer contributed to this report.

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