Giving Tree program

The Wood River YMCA’s Giving Tree program runs until Thursday, Dec. 17.

It’s undoubtedly been a long, challenging year. But whether it’s a charitable gift or simple act of kindness, there are dozens of ways to pay it forward this holiday season and serve those hit hardest by the pandemic.

Here are eight suggestions to start:

1. Support local healthcare and frontline workers. This can take on many forms, from arranging prepaid meals to simply wearing a mask, staying home whenever possible and social distancing. You can also leave a message of appreciation and support on the national Health Hero Hotline by calling 877-226-HERO; messages can be played back at https://healthherohotline.com.

2. Become a personal shopper for someone at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Offer to pick up their groceries or prescriptions and drop off bags outside their door for safe, contactless pickup.

3. Make a child’s—or senior’s—holiday by answering their gift requests. The Wood River Community YMCA, in partnership with The Advocates, is hosting the Giving Tree program this year. Anyone can take home a letter with gift requests, buy said gifts and return them to the Y by Thursday, Dec. 17. The Life Church in Hailey is also hosting a Christmas Giving Tree program geared toward seniors. For more information, call the Y at 208-727-9622 or the Life Church at 208-788-2992.

4. Help shelter animals in need. Mountain Humane is always in need of peanut butter, leashes, dog and cat food, and cat litter. If you have the resources, you can foster a cat or dog or give an animal the gift of a permanent home.

5. Make a Christmas card for a senior. The Blaine County Senior Connection is in need of 500 homemade Christmas cards this year for older adults in the community. To spread some holiday cheer, RSVP to sarahb@uidaho.edu and drop a card in the black mailbox outside the UI Extension Office, 302 First Ave. S. in Hailey, before Dec. 24.

6. Set aside time to give blood at the Wood River Community YMCA on Saturday, Jan. 9. Appointments can be set up at www.redcrossblood.org.

7. Help families struggling to put food on their table. Any amount given to The Hunger Coalition through Dec. 31 will be matched up to $250,000 through the nonprofit’s Community Campaign, made possible by 10 local donors. “It’s been a really wild ride—we saw more people at our curbside food pantry in March and April than we saw throughout 2019,” said Kristin McMahon, communications and development supervisor for The Hunger Coalition. “Nine months later, we’re still serving two to three times as many people as usual.” Don’t have cash to spare? By following the coalition’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thehungercoalition5b, you can respond to various requests for used items, such as egg cartons and grocery bags, McMahon said.

8. Give to a favorite local nonprofit. Donating on behalf of a friend or family member can make for a meaningful and memorable Christmas gift. For a list of more than 400 nonprofits in Blaine County, visit https://bit.ly/3734UGo.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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