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Where to Give Back in the Brandywine Valley This Holiday Season

Photo by Adobe Stock / yavdat

Feeling inspired to give back this holiday season? There are plenty of ways to serve the community with your time, finances or talents.

The holidays are a wonderful time for self-reflection. What kind of impact do you want to have on your community and on the world? What causes are you passionate about? This time of year is also the perfect time to turn your passion into action. Donating to charities and volunteering at charitable organizations in your area are just a couple of ways to spread the love. Read on for more information about how you can help these local groups.

Faithful Friends Animal Society

Faithful Friends Animal Society was founded in Wilmington in 2000 after a group of dedicated citizens realized that 90% of animals entering the publicly funded shelter system in Delaware were being euthanized every year.

Determined to advocate for the voiceless, Faithful Friends has since become a multifaceted organization that offers adoption and fostering services, veterinary care, obedience training, vaccines, spaying and neutering, a free pet food bank and more.

“We are very driven by the bond between pets and people,” says Shannon O’Neill, CFRE, an 18-year veteran of Faithful Friends who serves as its director of development and public relations. “We have always been an advocacy organization. We’ve always wanted to make big changes for the animals in our state and to make sure that they’re protected.”

Faith Friends Animal Society

Nicole Cunningham, dog placement coordinator at Faithful Friends, with Ice, a shelter resident looking for her forever home. Photo courtesy of Faithful Friends Animal Society

The easiest way to support Faithful Friends is with an online donation. In fact, Faithful Friends’ biggest annual fundraiser, the Double Your Love Match Challenge Campaign, is upon us: Through February 15, every dollar donated to Faithful Friends will be doubled by a group of generous supporters, up to $300,000.

Additionally, you can visit the Faithful Friends website to view their wish list and purchase needed supplies, such as pet food, toys and more. You can also volunteer to help care for the animals, walk dogs, play with cats or even take on special projects throughout the year, like building houses for outdoor cats.

The Dog Ambassador program provides extra enrichment and joy to the lives of the shelter’s most vulnerable dogs.

Faithful Friends Animal Society

Grayson recovered well from his eye operation and was recently adopted. Photo courtesy of Faithful Friends Animal Society

And finally, if you have room in your home for another family member, consider fostering or adopting an animal. As O’Neill notes, “There are so many personal benefits to adopting or fostering an animal. Although sometimes it seems like opening your heart and your home to a pet is a lot of work—and sometimes it is, to be realistic—you get so much back, and that’s unmeasurable.”

Friendship House NEC

In the late 1980s, Friendship House began as a thrift store with a mission to help the unhoused in Wilmington. New Castle Presbytery and Meeting Ground, a Maryland nonprofit, combined forces to operate the thrift store, providing resources and advocacy to the population as well.

News of this safe haven began to spread, attracting an increasing number of people, which led to the city fire marshal closing its doors in 1987 until it could be fully licensed as a shelter. The next year, Friendship House Inc. opened its doors as a Delaware 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Since then, Friendship House has become a sprawling network of resources and programs for those experiencing homelessness, employing 25 people and attracting over 1,000 volunteers. Friendship House also operates a Transitional Housing Program, four Empowerment Centers and financial assistance programs.

Additionally, Friendship House has a clothing bank that distributes over 100,000 pounds of garments annually, employs more than 30 women and donates school uniforms to 10 schools. Volunteers and donations are welcome.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels Delaware, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021, began its work in response to a shortage of resources available for senior citizens in Delaware. Due to illnesses, disabilities or other circumstances, some seniors are unable to prepare food for themselves or shop for groceries. Because of this, meal delivery services are crucial to their stability and independence.

In the last year alone, Meals on Wheels served more than 877,000 nutritious meals to over 6,200 seniors. If you want to contribute to Meals on Wheels, you can donate, volunteer or join their Legacy Builders Society, a charitable opportunity with a variety of benefits.

Kind to Kids Foundation

The Kind to Kids Foundation in Wilmington serves one of Delaware’s most vulnerable populations—children in foster care and poverty. Many children entering the foster care system have experienced neglect, abuse and trauma. Coping with that can be incredibly difficult, but the Kind to Kids Foundation approaches this chaotic time with love and compassion. By offering educational programs, such as the UGrad program, support services and supplies, Kind to Kids offers a crucial source of stability and comfort.

Their programs include Help-A-Kid: Gifts for Foster Children, which provides over $20,000 worth of books and toys to foster kids every year. They also dole out blue duffels filled with toiletries, books, teddy bears, blankets, coloring books and more. There are many ways to help this organization: You can fundraise, donate, volunteer or spread awareness. You can also celebrate your birthday or a holiday by asking for donations instead of gifts, or plan a fundraiser or holiday drive at your work or school.

Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans

It’s a devastating reality that, after serving our country, many veterans find themselves in dire situations without housing, medical care or resources. That’s where the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans comes into play, with a dual-pronged mission: to provide safe, affordable housing to veterans in need along with support and services to help reintegrate them back into life at home.

Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans

Local veterans helped by the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans. Photo courtesy of the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans

Educational programs, as well as services that support goals of healing, self-sufficiency and independence, are available to the veterans. The Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans is currently building its second permanent low-income housing facility, the Carolyn Center, which will consist of 60 apartments and will be Delaware’s second permanent rental housing for veterans.

There are a variety of ways you can help, including, “Spreading awareness about organizations like the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans, supporting the development of more permanent low-income housing and working to eliminate the barriers and red tape created by bureaucratic systems,” says Zoë Skemp, the design, tech and media specialist for the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans. You can also help with one of the many volunteer opportunities available.

Wings for Success

This organization, with locations in Kennett Square and Exton, Pennsylvania, aims to empower women in need with three main focuses: “Education, apparel and advocacy.” Wings for Success was founded in 1998 by women who knew that lacking the proper apparel for interviews and the professional world is a barrier for some women seeking jobs and financial security.

The organization provides free clothing and assistance to women in need, as well as a variety of other services to foster economic independence, autonomy and confidence. Wings for Success offers help with job searches, one-on-one advice sessions, workshops on topics like interview techniques and résumé-perfecting, employment resources and more. To contribute to this cause, you can volunteer or donate; clothing or money is accepted.

Related: Find Holiday Fun at These Brandywine Valley Happenings