Santa's helpers wanted!

As the holidays arrive in a rush, it’s also become a custom in many people’s lives to share their time and their treasure with others. 

Whether it be serving a meal or writing a check, each act of kindness brightens the season for those who may be hungry, lonely or in need of other kindness and support. Among the many area opportunities are several meal celebrations that provide volunteers with a way to share their holiday spirit by serving food and interacting with local residents.

What better way to introduce children to the concept of “do unto others” by spending an afternoon dishing up good food, interacting with the guests and cleaning up the kitchen afterward? Many such programs, due to extreme need, aren’t just around for the holidays – these programs serve all year round. Volunteers of all ages are welcome at most of the free meal centers.

Brentwood Community Chest, founded 45 years ago, supplies families each holiday with a full dinner, canned food and age-appropriate gifts for children. The families have already been selected and volunteers are encouraged to participate in one or both of the following events.

On Dec. 18, the group will be packing the boxes for distribution from 4 to 9 p.m. at Brentwood Elementary School.  On Dec. 19, the volunteers will be delivering the food and gifts from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The gathering and distribution of the food and gifts is a big project, with school drives at Adams, Bristow and Edna Hill middle schools – sustaining a 20-year support of funds and supplies.

“What I love about it is that it’s local families giving to local families,” said Dana Eaton, the superintendent of the Brentwood Unified School District and co-director of the drive. “Middle schools in Brentwood compete to gather the most toys and food, and mom’s groups, sports teams and other local groups all support the effort by providing gift cards.”

According to Lillian Pierce, more than 10,000 items were collected by the three middle schools last year. Others in the community are also encouraged to join in the holiday hospitality.

For more information or to support the drive, contact Lillian Pierce at 925-634-3216 or Dana Eaton at 925-331-7005. 

Since 2009, Friends of Oakley Foundation has been coordinating an annual Community Christmas Basket Program. This effort also supplies holiday food baskets including a turkey, fresh produce and canned food, plus wrapped presents for children through age 17. Volunteers can help in the distribution of gifts this year and consider further participation for next holiday season. 

The group spends nearly $10,000 annually for this holiday program and accepts monetary donations to help fund the purchase of gifts and foods. The families who will receive the food and gifts from the foundation have already registered, but interested volunteers can still participate

Fore more information, contact 925-625-7946 or 925-864-1154 or visit https://friendsofoakley.wordpress.com.

The City of Oakley also supports other nonprofits by hosting an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 4 p.m., at the Civic Center Plaza, 3231 Main St. The space will be filled with booths staffed by nonprofits, with a variety of activities, music and free refreshments.

Cornerstone Church, at 1745 E. 18th St. in Antioch, invites the community to “Deck the Halls” on Dec. 11, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Dec. 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event includes free family photos and a holiday boutique, and raffle tickets will be distributed during the Saturday event.

“If your children want to volunteer, it would be nice if they came as elves and help the families as they are waiting to have their photos taken,” said Anne Fowler, a coordinator.

For more information or to volunteer, call 925-597-0674.

The Community Presbyterian Church will host a Feed the Need Christmas Party in Prosserville Park, on Sunday, Dec. 27. Approximately a dozen churches will join together to support the effort. For more information, email 2015Christmasparty@gmail.com.

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