As I spent a good 10 minutes circling a crowded parking lot at Costco this weekend, my frustration was insurmountable.

“It’s Thanksgiving week. What do you expect?” a well-meaning friend reminded me.  Yes, this is true.

And as a car whipped around a corner and zoomed into the spot I was waiting for, I had to take a breath and remind myself that ‘tis the season to be thankful.

Truth is, we often become so wrapped-up in the hustle and bustle that we lose sight of the abundance of blessings bestowed upon us. We also sometimes forget that there are many around us, our own friends and neighbors, who face extreme hardship around the holidays.

So what can we do, locally, to make a difference – not only for those who need our help – but for ourselves? 

To answer that question, I give you:

Five great ways to give this Thanksgiving and beyond

Mercy Haven Giving Tuesday: Shortly after I got the “thumbs up” to craft this feature, I reached out to Mercy Haven in Islip Terrace, an organization devoted to improving the lives of those struggling with mental illness or poverty. 

Mercy Haven’s Pat Spiegel serves as its volunteer coordinator.

“Mercy Haven began in 1985 in Bay Shore with a small group of volunteers, starting at the St. Pat’s Church Hospitality Center, working to prevent the people housed in the Baybright Hotel in Bay Shore from losing their home,” she said.

According to Spiegel, Mercy Haven is participating in Giving Tuesday, “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaborating” to benefit the Mercy Advocacy Program (MAP), which provides free legal counsel and representation for those receiving assistance from the organization.

A link to donate is here.

Spiegel also explained that donations of nonperishable food and toiletries, such as toilet tissue and toothpaste, are very much appreciated.

Items can be dropped off at the Mercy Haven Main Office located at 859 Connetquot Ave. in Islip Terrace weekdays between 8:30am and 4:30pm.

The East Islip Chamber of Commerce Annual Coat Drive: Though we enjoyed a warm fall, the weather is turning. At this time each year, those in need will benefit from new or gently-used coats.

In partnership with the Islip Rotary Club, the Chamber has organized four drop-off locations that will collect coats for adults and children through the first week in December: Sutton Insurance, Allstate Insurance, Coach Realtors, and State Farm.

“The amount of generosity shown by our local residents is heartwarming, and the response that I’ve experienced… was something that you can’t put into words,” said Ryan Gillies of the Sutton Insurance Agency in East Islip.

Coats are dry-cleaned and distributed to local parishes and to families throughout the Island. 

If you don’t have time to visit one of the drop-off locations, Gilles said pickups can be arranged by e-mailing him at RG@Suttonins.com.

The Kiwanis Club of the Islips and Bay Shore Fundraiser:  Since 1915, the Kiwanis is an international organization rooted in community service. The local chapter is seeking donations of new merchandise, gift cards, and cash or check contributions to benefit families in our community.

“The Kiwanis mission is to help the children of the world,” said member Frank Flandina. “The Islips-Bay Shore chapter raises funds for local food pantries, scholarships, medical centers and various youth oriented charities across Long Island.”

If you’re able to help with a monetary or in-kind donation (or to inquire about membership), contact club president Elvania Peralta at evydemsec@hotmail.com or call 631-949-1325.

Islip Animal Shelter and Adopt-A-Pet Center Annual Toy Drive: On Saturday, Dec. 17, the Islip Animal Shelter will be collecting toys, treats and donations to “stuff the stockings” of their adoptable animals, according to their Facebook page.

The event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is sponsored by the Live, Love, Bark Dog Rescue in Islip.

As well, Live, Love, Bark is seeking volunteers for a one-time or an ongoing basis to help with the training, socialization and exercise of their dogs.

Anyone 18 years of age or older is eligible. Visit the website for details.

Is Santa considering bringing your child a furry friend for the Holidays?

Might I suggest asking Santa to adopt one of hundreds of homeless pets in this or any of our other local shelters? As a rescue mom of three, I can attest to the abundance of unconditional love that shelter pets can add to a home.

Volunteer: Edward M. Phillips, Medical editor to the Harvard Health Publication, suggests that the giving of one’s time to benefit another is, ironically, one of the most positive things we can do for ourselves.

In an essay entitled Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A practical, easy guide for healthy, happy living, Phillips cites research that confirms that volunteering and personal happiness are undoubtedly connected. 

It’s science.

There are several local organizations seeking short-term and long-term volunteers of all ages. If you have the time to give, check out these suggestions from members of the Bay Shore Moms and Dads Facebook Group:

  • Girl Scouts of America
  • Bay Shore Brightwaters Ambulance
  • Our Lady of Consolation Nursing Home
  • Pixie Dust
  • Southside Hospital

Other opportunities can be found by visiting http://www.volunteermatch.org/


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