Sharon Koehler

Stone Industry Consultant

Take a Minute…Well folks, it’s that time of year. You know…that time of year (holiday season) when I start buggin’ you to look toward helping someone less fortunate than you are. And, let’s face it, more people than ever need help this year. Not counting the pandemic, there were numerous other natural and man-made disasters not only in this country, but around the world. California wildfires, Louisiana hurricanes, multi-state bridge collapses, Gulf oil spills, businesses laying off employees or closing all together, and so much more.

Usually I talk about the regular charities. Marine Toys for Tots is a great program set up to help kids get toys at Christmas. Founded in 1947, Marine Toys for Tots to date has distributed over 565 million toys to over 270 million children who otherwise wouldn’t have had “Christmas Joy.” The Salvation Army runs a great program every year, The Angel Tree. Established by the Salvation Army in 1979, it helps to not only provide toys for children (Angels) at Christmas, but also helps seniors (Silver Bells). Corporations can sponsor whole trees or just individuals. You don’t need to be a whole company to sponsor an Angel or a Silver Bell. Individuals can go to an Angel Tree (usually found in malls and other high traffic locations) and pick individual angels or silver bells to help. Last year, my company sponsored 3 children and I personally sponsored a Silver Bell.

If you observe Hanukkah and want to help in your community, try contacting the Jewish Children’s Regional Services, headquartered in Louisiana. They do not operate nationwide, but they do operate in seven southern states, and can probably put you in touch with an organization in your area. Or if you have a Jewish Community Center in your area, that is an excellent place to turn to for information on how to help.

Homeless shelters around the country are also struggling, and need help. If you want to help but maybe don’t have the $100 (plus or minus) recommended to sponsor an Angel or a Silver Bell, think about donating to a homeless shelter. Besides money, homeless shelters have a great need for shoes, socks, school supplies, blankets, diapers, wipes, coats, and male and female hygiene products, as well. 

Something else on the homeless shelter needs list are earbuds. (I would have NEVER thought of that.) Earbuds are needed because nighttime at shelters can be noisy and earbuds help muffle the noise so people can sleep better. Who knew? Not me (until now)! A few pairs of socks or a blanket doesn’t carry the price tag of sponsoring an Angel, but can do just as much good. 

Don’t have spare cash but still want to help? Donate your time. Become a volunteer somewhere.  Homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other charities LOVE volunteers. Someone has to man those Angel Tree booths, do inventory at a soup kitchen, help pass out blankets and ear buds at homeless shelters, and ring those bells for the red kettles. (Actually, for the last two years, the guy with the red kettle at my local Walmart has played the trumpet).

My next-door neighbor helps our local county Christmas Mother program every year. Also, check with your church, synagogue, temple or mosque.  They often run volunteer programs where you can donate items, money or time (or all three, if you are so inclined).

 If you happen to be a bit of an introvert and interacting with strangers just isn’t your thing, try contacting your local animal shelters. A lot of shelters try to send animals “home for the holidays” because many of their volunteers either go away for the holidays, or want to be with family, so often there’s limited staff to take care of the animals. After the holidays, the pooch or kitty goes back to the shelter, and you go back to whatever you do. 

The holidays can be a hectic time. There are shopping malls to visit, internet orders to track, plans to make, parties to go to, meals to prepare, traveling to do, relatives to see, choirs to listen to, trees to trim, menorahs to light ,and so much more. It is possible to become a bit cranky over the holiday season, but I have a secret that will help you feel better. Acts of charity make you feel good. IT’S TRUE! There is science behind it. Helping literally makes you feel happy. I am not a scientist, but what happens is that during the acts of charity your brain releases chemicals (endorphins) that make you feel good. It’s called a Helper’s High (similar to a runner’s high). This in turn reduces your stress which lowers your blood pressure. It’s a win – win for everyone. The less fortunate get the help they need, and you feel better during a rather hectic time. 

John Wesley, a clergyman in the Church of England back in the 1700s once said:

Do all the good you can

By all the means you can

In all the ways you can

In all the places you can

At all the times you can

To all the people you can

As long as ever you can

So, like Nike says, “Just do it.” Help someone, feel good and go into 2022 knowing that you did the right thing. Happy Holidays, y’all.


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