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Holidays turn thoughts to charities

Employee Daniel Zoberis (right) carries a container of clothes Saturday donated by Cortland resident Cheryl Aldis at Goodwill in DeKalb.
Employee Daniel Zoberis (right) carries a container of clothes Saturday donated by Cortland resident Cheryl Aldis at Goodwill in DeKalb.

As 2012 comes to a close, many Americans will take time out of their day to volunteer at a local charity or donate to a favored cause.

Burlington resident Sandy Lasiowski said she regularly donates to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago, where her granddaughter Violet had surgery for a cleft palette.

“That’s our charity of choice,” Lasiowski said. She said she contributes to a number of food pantries, as well.

Lasiowski said giving to charity is necessary around the holidays.

“For some people, it can be a very sad time of year because they do not have a lot,” she said. “You feel blessed. If you’re healthy and you’re able, you should [give to charity].”

Grandchildren also motivated Tracy Riskus, who said she volunteers at Hesed House, a homeless shelter in Aurora. Ever since her grandson Kaden was born, Riskus said, she has been giving more. “He’s our gift from God. God gave us him so we feel charitable to give back to others.” Riskus said she will be serving at a community dinner her church hosts on Christmas Day.

Other people organize events around the holidays for charities. Singer-songwriter Gary Mullis, for instance, has organized the Christmas Country Music Festival and The Salvation Army Needy Child Toy Drive.

This will be the 43rd year of the festival, Mullis said. People can list to bluegrass, country, Western and gospel music for the price of one new toy for The Salvation Army’s toy drive. The concert is scheduled for 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the House Cafe at 263 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb. Walk-on performers are welcome.

“I thought it would be nice to get a bunch of people and musicians together to sing,” Mullis said. “People enjoy coming to it and bringing toys for The Salvation Army toy drive.”

Retail stores also are involved with charities. At Moxie’s, 230 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, store manager Courtney Wilson said the Feed ’Em Soup shirts they sell year-round go directly to the DeKalb-based organization, which offers free community dinners throughout the year. The shirts are $12 apiece.

“One hundred percent goes to Feed ’Em Soup,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of our way helping a local organization.”

Wilson said the store helps other organizations with merchandise, such as donating a gift basket to the American Red Cross.

“All of the time, we get places requesting donations, whether it’s for certain charities or events,” Wilson said. “We always donate gift certificates for that.”

In 2011, the American Association of Fundraising Counsel estimated that Americans donated more than $298 billion to charities and not-for-profit causes. Seventy-three percent of donations that year came from individuals.

Americans typically give more during the holiday season, according to Charity Navigator, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help people make “intelligent giving” decisions. The organization polled a number of charities and found that 41 percent of their total income came from individuals and groups who donate between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Northern Illinois University alumna Judy Oaks said, however, that she doesn’t think charity should be limited to the holiday season.

“If the need is year round, I’d rather just do what I can year round than focus on the holidays,” Oaks said. She added that food security is important to her, and that she donates to food drives and food banks when she can.

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