Helping the Needy Even After the Holidays

By: Michele Wolfson

The leaves are falling off the trees, it's getting dark before 5 pm and our breath is now visible as we briskly walk from one destination to the next in this biting weather. You know what that means, don't you? It's that time of year again where the Christmas songs and commercials play non-stop as they remind us all that the holidays are here and 'tis the season of giving!

While it is wonderful that food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations are brimming at the seams with earnest volunteers and donation bins are overflowing around this time of year, it's disheartening to see this kind of enthusiasm to help the needy die down after the New Year.

Year after year, kids are constantly hearing the message that the holidays are all about asking for whatever they want. It's the season of giving, but mostly with them on the receiving end and parents obliging to their requests of a new video game system or other new devices that are coming out on the market. Some folks stress the importance to help out the underprivileged and get them involved in worthy causes around the holidays. But what happens when the holidays are over and come January and February, donations are slim?

Julie Rosenthal, the mom who runs a small nonprofit called Food on the 15th, has seen it before. The organization involves children with helping the needy throughout the entire year. Food on the 15th always makes its deliveries around the 15th of the month of nutritious non-perishable regular and diabetic foods to senior citizens who face economic hardships in Howard County. When the Social Security checks begin to run out and tough choices between medication and food get made, this organization feels that no one should have to make that choice. It's a year-round operation, not a feel-good, holiday-only effort.

"Parents and children work together on this project, creating more family time and getting the family involved with an objective of exposing children to philanthropy and community service at a young age.  The hope is that they will continue philanthropic endeavors when they are adults and, in turn, teach their children about giving," says Rosenthal.

It's wonderful to be able to donate money to organizations, but it is also an incredible feeling to be able to volunteer your time, energy and creativity to a project, especially when it's a team effort- so why not get involved all year round? We live in one of the richest nations in the world where many struggle with the ultimate parent challenge: How do I raise my child to not be an entitled brat?

The project, which has delivered 9,500 bags of groceries to hundreds of low-income seniors over the past six years, does more than teach kids about giving and sharing and the socioeconomic inequities among that 99 percent of us. It is designed to introduce children of affluence to people who are struggling.

"I thought my kids were way too focused on themselves. There was dance and drama and all that, but it was all about them," says Rosenthal, an Asian Studies program management specialist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She needed something that would make her kids understand how privileged they were compared to others around them. That's how this organization came into existence. Hopefully, this will inspire other places around the world to get their children involved in helping others whether it's December or July.

Photo: Omega Man

For more food news, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)