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North Hills Community Outreach seeks volunteers, donations

| Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

The time of the year for giving and receiving has already approached and is in full effect for North Hills Community Outreach, a nonprofit that provides services for low-income families and individuals in the area.

While there's always a need for donations year round, several donation opportunities happen at this time, said Jennifer Kissel, NHCO director of communications.

Currently, they are collecting for the Thanksgiving on Every Table food drive through Nov. 10, she said. Donations can include boxes of stuffing mix, canned vegetables or cranberry sauce, instant mashed potatoes, muffin mix and/or pumpkin pie mix, or at least a $15 gift card to purchase a turkey, according to the NHCO website.

Shortly after that drive, is the annual gift collection for kids ranging from infants to teenagers. A list of ideas is on the NHCO website, including puzzles, hooded sweatshirts, art supplies, or bath and body items.

Basically, “anything for kids and teens that would be awesome and cool,” Kissel said.

Gifts are provided for 800 to 900 children, where parents or caregivers come in and choose a gift or two for a child.

She said the biggest gift need always seems to be for teenagers, particularly teenage boys. As Kissel's own personal experience as a mom, that age and gender is hard to shop for. So, gift cards are a great idea, she said.

And make it something that helps them fit in, because that's important for that age, no matter the background, she said.

Donations for each drive can be made at the main office in Allison Park on Ferguson Road, or at branch locations in Bellevue and Millvale.

As a unit of the Salvation Army, the organization is sending out a plea for volunteers for the 2017 Kettle Campaign. It's the biggest fundraiser and they can't collect if they don't have ringers.

There are two sites this year, Kuhn's on Ferguson Road in Hampton and at Walmart in Gibsonia. Volunteers are needed the day prior to Thanksgiving and then in varying times from late November to Dec. 23, said Kissel.

Shifts are two hours each and can be signed up via the NHCO website. She said weekdays during the day are the hardest to fill, because people are working then. It's a great idea for college students on break, students looking for service hours, or retirees.

People can stay a double shift, or at least as long as you're able, she said. And those kettles really make a dent.

“Funds collected in red kettles at Christmas stay in the communities where they are collected to provide assistance to that community not only during the holiday time, but well into the new year, including critical social services for those in need,” said Donna Fencik, divisional director for public relations and marketing for the Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania headquarters.

Fencik said an average kettle yields $300 to $500 per day, and for some areas, Christmas campaigns represent a large part of their overall budget.

In addition to these campaigns, Kissel also mentioned the Sharing Winter Warmth program is also happening until Jan. 31, where they are requesting financial donations to help send at least a one-time $50 credit toward the heating or lighting bill of families or individuals in need at the NHCO.

Officials hope to have enough to give $75, and while that amount doesn't seem like a lot, she said it makes a big difference for those with a low or fixed income, especially elderly or disabled whom she said often stress on making heating payments.

Kissel is thankful for the donations received throughout the year, noting they just ended a successful coat collection on Oct. 13, just in time for distribution before the onslaught of winter weather. Kissel estimated they received more than 2,000 coats.

“We had a really nice collection this year,” she said.

She said they have donors who buy coats on clearance at the end of spring, just for the collection. Kissel estimates one generous donor probably spends close to $1,000 for coats, taking advantage of the end-of-season sales.

Due to the lack of storage space, she requests that coats be kept at the home until their coat collection begins. They request clean, winter-weight coats with working fasteners.

For information on any of these programs, go to nhco.org.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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