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Sharing the holiday spirit

During the holidays most of us are fortunate enough to spend more time with friends and family. It’s also a time when we may feel called to give back by donating our time or money to a charity. Recently we asked our members how they make the world a better place. Thanks to all of you who do!

Lisa Lang, RMR, CRR, CRC, freelancer in Pasco, Wash.

Lisa Lang

I have been volunteering on and off for the past 30 years at our local chaplaincy/hospice, most recently called Chaplaincy Health Care. I started out providing respite care for families needing someone to stay with their terminally ill loved one, allowing the caregiver(s) an opportunity to enjoy some time off to go out to dinner or whatever else they wanted or needed to do outside of the home.

Subsequently, when our local Hospice House was built, I began spending time there helping out with visiting and feeding patients, cleaning, or whatever else needed to be done. When the chaplaincy later opened its thrift store to help raise funds, I helped out there and really enjoyed interacting with the customers and also shopping there myself!

The chaplaincy is near and dear to my heart because, when my mother became terminally ill about 30 years ago, we utilized hospice care in Arizona. I had never even heard of hospice care before then, and it was so fantastic that I decided to look into it here locally and knew I wanted to spend some time helping out with our local hospice.  

I donate to a few charities, but Chaplaincy Health Care is my favorite charity to donate to!

Lorrie Schnoor, RDR, CRR, freelancer in Round Rock, Texas

Lorrie Schnoor

Christmas is a very special time for me and my family, and it’s important to me that all children experience the excitement of it! However, for some that is not possible without programs like the Salvation Army Angel Tree. For the past several years, my daughters’ school has participated in this event, and this year was no different. We enjoy picking out a few angels and then mindfully purchasing their wants and needs all the while speculating about the joy they will have when unwrapping their gifts. I believe that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others, and being able to put a smile on children’s faces at Christmas makes me extremely happy!

Diane L. Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE (Ret.), in Rogersville, Mo.

The Community Blood Bank of the Ozarks has a program called “Holiday Hugs” around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. This is one of the times of the year when donating blood, platelets, or plasma is so important. The goal is to set people up to donate during each of these holiday weeks. I stopped in at the blood bank a couple of years ago to donate blood and saw they had a need for platelets and plasma. I now donate platelets every other week. Donating blood saves lives. I can’t think of a better way to show the Christmas spirit!

Janice Burness, RPR, freelancer in Burlington, N.J.

Janice Burness

Throughout the year I volunteer one day a week for the American Red Cross. I fell in love with their mission statement, which is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.  The Red Cross is impartial, neutral, independent, and promotes peace among all people.  

I mostly do administrative work to help ensure volunteers out in the field have the proper education and training to respond to disasters and crises and that they have the necessary information to give to victims to begin their recovery process. While I enjoy what I’m doing presently, I’m really looking forward to retirement and having time to be more “boots on the ground” myself.

Because of their humanitarian efforts, I always contribute during the holidays to the Red Cross in memory of my nephew Phillip Hudak who passed away unexpectedly and suddenly at the age of 24.  He was a true lover of peace, and I know it would make him happy. 

Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, official in Oklahoma City, Okla.

In memory of Cassy Kerr’s first rescue, Josie

If you watch TV during the holiday season, you are likely to see the sad eyes and matted fur of the caged animals in the commercial for the ASPCA. Unfortunately, those are real-life stories of many precious fur babies that our local community animal shelters and rescues deal with every day.

One way I give during the Christmas season is by visiting the Amazon wish lists of nearby rural animal shelters and volunteer-run rescues and purchasing items they need. State and county shelters receive funding and private rescues rely on donations, but they both are always in need of additional help. In addition to food and treats, shelters always need pee pads, litter, toys, crates, bowls, towels, leashes, cleaning supplies, formula, dewormer, flea and tick treatment, zip ties, and batteries. The list is endless. And with Amazon packing and delivering the products, it’s a convenient way for me to avoid the crowded stores and roads during this busy season.

In keeping with the “shop local” motto, please consider your area’s shelters and rescues and “donate local” to the homeless animals. 

Lori Seiden, RPR, freelancer in Tampa, Fla.

I believe that generosity is a privilege. 

My favorite annual gift is to buy dozens of boxes of Girl Scout cookies and then give them to a local fire station. It’s like getting a two-for-one on the same gift, and everybody is happy. 

Two organizations that I give to monthly are Revive Our Hearts ministry and Friends to the Forlorn Pit Bull Rescue. 

Revive Our Hearts is a great resource for women with uplifting podcasts and written materials.


Friends to the Forlorn Pit Bull Rescue is something that I give in honor of my granddog, Bruiser, who has passed, but I still miss him. Just looking at his picture still makes me smile.

For Christmas giving this year, I donated to Set Free Counseling, which provides mental health counseling even when people can’t cover the full fee. Also, this year I gave to the Florida Court Reporters Association’s student fund to give back a little something to the career I love so much.

I also like to volunteer time in my city by working with The Laundry Project, where we volunteer a few times a year by going to the laundromat and paying for the washing and drying for everyone there. We usually average about 250 loads of laundry each time.

Each of these opportunities allows me to help in some small way to give back to those things that touch my heart and my life.


For client holiday gifts, I make a monetary contribution to a local food bank, then send a card to my clients thanking them for letting me work with them and letting them know I have made a donation to the food bank in their honor.

Marc Friedman, CLVS, videographer in Edison, N.J.

The organizations that I choose to volunteer with are all disaster relief organizations. 

I support them financially, and I have had the opportunity to get my hands dirty and have responded to several locations around the country doing hands-on relief work.

My first experience was a few months after Hurricane Katrina when I flew to New Orleans to do disaster relief work. Most of the work was going into flooded homes and removing moldy Sheetrock to bring them down to the studs so they could go into repair mode.

In 2012 I was introduced to NECHAMA, the Jewish Response to Disaster in New Jersey during the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief. 

In October 2017 I traveled to Houston, Texas, to assist NECHAMA and the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) disaster response team jointly to assist in Hurricane Harvey disaster relief.

In March I am going to Fort Meyers, Fla., to do recovery work for Hurricane Ian with the All Hands and Hearts organization.

It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to help people during their worst times. The thank-yous and smiles you get from these families make it all worthwhile.

Mark Friedman in Houston after Hurricane Harvey