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Multiple ways to give this holiday season

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 10:16 p.m. CDT

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MORRIS – Several toy, clothing and food drives may be coming to a close for the holidays, but the donation box outside the Kwiecinski house will stay through the new year.

“Donations will be given to We Care and a local animal rescue in Coal City,” Barbara Kwiecinski said.

For the past two years, the Kwiecinskis have accepted donations outside of their Morris home, 107 Glenwood Lane in Hatcher Woods. Their contribution may be small, but the Kwiecinskis, like other local groups, offer a way for people to continue their holiday giving through the new year.

Christine Sparks from the Easter Seals Jump Start program in Grundy County said the organization will be accepting donations for its family sponsorship program through the end of December.

“With the tornado and everything else going on, we’ve lost a few sponsors this year,” Sparks said. “If there are people looking to donate but find places are overflowing, then they can donate here.”

The organization sponsors an at-risk parenting program and, as an added incentive for the program, provides presents for the 130 families during the holidays. Sparks said donations of books, clothes for newborns to age 3, and toys are being accepted.

We Care and Operation St. Nick are wrapping up their respective major holiday assistance programs, but both organizations are always accepting monetary donations.

Big Brothers Big Sisters in Grundy needs people to donate their time this holiday season – and beyond – to become a mentor.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization that provides one on one mentoring and develops positive, long-lasting relationships with local children. The organization targets children who come from traumatic home environments, said Lisa Morel, chief executive officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Will, Grundy, Kankakee and Iroquois counties.

Currently nine children in Grundy County are in need of mentors: two girls and two boys in Morris, one girl in Braceville, two boys in Coal City, one boy in Mazon and one boy in Minooka.

Morel said the holiday season is a crucial time for these children to have mentors because it can be very depressing for them, especially for those with absent parents or parents who are unable to afford presents.

“They see all of these idealized versions of life and the holidays – in magazines, on TV shows – and many of these kids don’t have that,” Morel said. “It can make them more depressed than ever.”

Morel said the organization is in dire need of male mentors. Of the 70 children in need of mentors throughout the four counties, Morel said 65 are boys.

“Typically, we match males with the boys and females with the girls,” Morel said.

To become a mentor, there is an application process that involves providing references, doing interviews and undergoing a background check. The application and matching process can take up to a month and a half, but Morel said they will try to match those who apply within the next weeks faster than usual so the children can have mentors by the new year.

“Some of these children have siblings who already have mentors,” Morel said. “They see their little brother or sister with a mentor and think, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why hasn’t anyone picked me?’ They internalize it even though it’s not their fault – it’s just a lack of volunteers.”

Mentors are required to spend at two or three days a month with their child and must commit to a year-long relationship. Morel said they also have a lunch buddies program at Saratoga Elementary School where people can volunteer to spend one lunch hour a week with a child.

HOW TO GIVE

For information about Big Brothers Big Sisters in Grundy County, call 815-942-9011 or visit the Morris office located at 220 W. Main Street, First Midwest Bank Building, 305.

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