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So many people in the Lehigh Valley need your help this holiday season

Luminaria Night
Marc Rittle
New Bethany Ministries
Luminaria Night

BETHLEHEM, Pa - This holiday season, nonprofits need help now more than ever.

“Two and a half years ago, when the pandemic started, it was like a flood. It came in and destroyed everything in its path,” said Laura McHugh, a vice president of Marketing and Communications at United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Like many nonprofits, they were in crisis mode, responding to the urgent problems of the pandemic.

“Now, those floodwaters have receded. We’re getting a really good look at the damage left behind,” said McHugh. “Frankly, it’s a lot worse than we thought.”

Many families she works with are struggling to meet their basic needs. “With food prices increasing significantly over the last year,” she said. “It is incredibly difficult for families to do those extras around the holidays.”

That’s why we’ve put together a list of places where you can volunteer or donate for the holidays.

“It relieves the stress that families face this time of year, to know they’re getting that additional support.”

KidsPeace is having its annual “Angel Tree” gift drive for kids in an inpatient or residential treatment center, as well as kids in foster care. The kids request the gift they want on a tag, and then a member of the public donates it. They receive it Christmas morning. Last year, their Bethlehem office distributed over 250 gifts. You can donate online or pick up a tag at their office in Schnecksville. Missy Hartney, their director of development, said “it gives joy to a child who needs it most.”

New Bethany Ministries is collecting $10 donations for Luminaria Kits, to raise money and awareness for individuals experiencing poverty, hunger, and homelessness. For the past 25 years, thousands of houses in Bethlehem have been lighting luminarias along their neighborhoods to remember those in need. This year, Luminaria night is on Dec. 10. “With the numbers of people needing housing and food assistance continuously rising," said Executive Director Marc Rittle, "Luminaria Night offers an opportunity to unite neighbors.” For every Luminaria kit, the ministry is able to give four meals to a neighbor in need.

Second Harvest Food Bank has found a donor to match up to $10,000 for Giving Tuesday. For every dollar donated, they’re able to provide three meals to feed a family facing food insecurity.

The Kindness Project has facilities in Emmaus and Stroudsburg, where young people in foster care are empowered to pick out their own toys, clothes and personal items. You can choose options from their online wishlist. Their partners will also match up to $18,000 in donations.

The Salvation Army is seeking people for its iconic red kettle program. Just an hour of bellringing can be enough to buy two bags of groceries for a family in need.

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and its partners are collecting presents for its third annual gift drive. On Friday, Dec 16., they will join characters from Magical Memories at Muhlenberg College, FeRROUS and FeFe of the IronPigs, Cops-N-Kids, the Allentown Police Department, the Allentown Fire Department, and Santa to deliver more than 1,000 presents to Roosevelt Elementary and Sheridan Elementary Schools. Then on the weekend, students and families are invited to the school for a private shopping experience. “It is just magical and joyful,” said McHugh.

Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley is planning to fill 8,000 “holiday hope chests” with toys, gloves, and other gifts to bring holiday cheer to children. Recommended items can be found here. There will also be in-person volunteer opportunities until Saturday, Dec. 3 at 85 S. Commerce Way. “When people intentionally put these together thinking about what their kids might have, that these kids don’t,” says CEO Karen Smith, “one box makes a difference.”