Like the 6-year-old wishing for a pony or the 16-year-old wanting a new car, Lance Young, executive director of the Glory Hole, has high hopes for Christmas this year.
"At the very top of my list is a house, so I could have a halfway house for people who are ready to leave the homeless shelter," Young said. "We need transitional housing so that people who can't afford an apartment can live in a house with lower rent. It's the next step in getting back into society."
Young recognizes he's dreaming big, but "you never know," he said. Just in case he doesn't get his first wish, he has some back-ups this holiday season, starting with the use of a karaoke machine.
"For New Year's, in years past we've had a party that was a movie, popcorn and snacks - boring," Young said. "This year I'd like to have a karaoke party and I'm trying to find someone with a machine who would like to come in and do that, so people who don't want to drink can do something besides watch boring movies."
Moving down on the list, Young is asking Juneau residents who want to help the homeless this holiday season to donate gifts for people of all ages: toys for kids, McDonald's gift certificates or CDs for teenagers, and hats, scarves and portable music players for adults, for example. The gifts will be distributed at the Glory Hole's Christmas party on Dec. 22.
The Glory Hole also will provide low-income families with Christmas meal boxes, and Young welcomes any donations.
"They can just get a box and fill it with food, or they can call me and I can let them know what I need," Young said. He added that he needs volunteers for the Christmas and New Year's parties.
The Glory Hole is one of many local nonprofit organizations that will benefit from the Great Alaskan Toy Drive. The drive, sponsored by KINY/KSUP radio stations and the Alaska Army National Guard, begins this week and will run until Dec. 18. The sooner people donate presents, the better, said Michelle Shaw of KINY/KSUP.
"Basically what we do is the Army National Guard is bringing out toy boxes, and people bring in new, unwrapped toys valued at $10 or more," Shaw said. "We collect all of the toys, and I go in with volunteers and separate them into age groups."
The toys are wrapped and donated to nonprofit organizations such as the Glory Hole, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Community Service, the state Division of Family and Youth Services, AWARE, the Kake Salvation Army, and Helping Hands.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society is once again running an adopt-a-family program, as well.
"We have families of two to 12 people for people to choose to adopt," said organizer Joe Hubert. "Essentially it consists of buying and wrapping presents for a family and bringing them to St. Vincent de Paul's, or to the family's home."
Hubert plans to match sponsors to families depending on the amount of money the sponsor wishes to spend.
"There's no price range," he said. "For adults it would be a pair of pants and a shirt, for example. Something that's a necessity but not outlandish. For kids it could be stuffed animals, games, school supplies or books."
St. Vincent's will accept families for sponsorship until Dec. 13. It will match sponsors to families as long as families are available. Toys from the Great Alaskan Toy Drive will supplement toys donated by sponsors or be distributed to families that request help in the last few days preceding Christmas, Hubert said.
The Salvation Army is organizing a gift drive this year, with angel trees soliciting presents for children in need under the age of 18, said Maj. June Nicloy, an associate officer with the Juneau Salvation Army.
The trees, which can be found at the Nugget Mall, ACS Wireless and Key Bank, among other locations, hold tags with the names and Christmas wishes of Juneau children. Donors can take any tag from a tree, buy a gift for the person listed and deliver it to the Salvation Army.
Trees will go up today, and the charity requests that gifts be delivered by Dec. 18.
The Salvation Army is assembling food baskets with fixings for a Christmas feast this December. Community members who want to help can assemble an entire basket, or drop off food donations for the Salvation Army to distribute.
Often, families will sponsor a family's entire Christmas - buy presents for the children and prepare the food basket, Nicloy said.
"Other people will just drop off gifts, not even for someone specific," Nicloy said. "That's especially helpful for people who come in at the last minute."
Although the number of options for giving in Juneau can be a bit overwhelming, without them Christmas would be a terrible time for some families, said Helen Kalk, program manager for the Family Resource Center, a program of Catholic Community Service.
Even a small donation is greatly appreciated.
"I think people should recognize that a $10 gift is going to be incredibly valuable to somebody who can't afford a $10 gift," Kalk said. "People can rest assured that that $10 gift is going to be appreciated."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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