Organizations that help people need donations and volunteers all year round, but the need is greater during the holidays.
“We always need volunteers. We need donations of food throughout the year, but more is needed during the holidays,” said Dennis Slupe, business manager of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Butler.
Volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul's food pantry and thrift store are in demand throughout the year.
“Volunteers are needed at both places. We can use them anywhere,” Slupe said.
The food pantry on North Elm Street serves more than 500 families every month and a larger number during the holidays, he said.
A significant amount of the donated food comes from collection drives.
“We have a lot of schools and churches and other organizations that have food drives. They are really helpful around the holidays,” Slupe said.
Donations of clothes and household items for the thrift store can be dropped at the store on Route 8 in the Greater Butler Mart, which is bustling during the holidays.
“It's the busiest time of year,” Slupe said.
People who want to volunteer should call the St. Vincent de Paul office at 724-287-3994.
MHY Family Services
MHY Family Services, formerly known as Mars Home for Youth, also needs volunteers and donations.
MHY provides mental and behavioral health services for youths, adults and families as well as residential and educational programs for at-risk youths.
“We have many opportunities for donors and for volunteers here,” said Lisa Schiller, MHY's executive director. “Our families and kids have needs year round.”
Needed items include Christmas gifts for students and such everyday items as bedding, towels, hygiene products, makeup and hair care products, arts and craft supplies and computers, Schiller said.
“That helps stretch the dollars we have to provide services,” she said.
Gifts can include everything from games to fishing equipment, which students use at the facility's pond.
“We receive donations for Christmas gifts, but some people give us stuff to store and use throughout the year. Insurance doesn't cover the cost of all the services we provide,” Schiller said.
Some people donate money that can be used in any of the programs the facility provides, while others donate to specific programs, she said.
Students make wish lists for gifts they want, families provide lists of items, such as laundry machines, that they need, and staff members make requests for computers.
“My wish lists are long,” Schiller said.
For information, call 724-625-3141 or visit www.mhyfamilyservices.org.
The Lighthouse Foundation, which recently relocated to Browns Hill Road in Valencia, needs donations to help feed the hundreds of families that rely on its food pantry and to provide toys for children's Christmas gifts.
“We have our weekly distribution of food at the food pantry and we have our annual Toy Shoppe,” said Victoria Spreng, director of programs and community outreach.
The new location in Valencia allows the food pantry to run efficiently, and fewer volunteers are needed there, but the food pantry is busy during the holidays and donations are needed, Spreng said.
“Our holiday distribution is higher,” she said.
Hundreds of families were served during the new food pantry's first three weeks of operation.
“We served almost 700 households,” Spreng said. “That number looks to almost double over the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We serve all of Butler County and northern Allegheny County.”
Toys donated by businesses, churches, families and community groups are given to children served by the food pantry and Lighthouse's Whole Life Ministries Program.
Those wishing to donate or volunteer should visit www.thelighthousepa.org.
Cabot Food Bank
The Cabot Food Bank at the Cabot United Methodist Church typically serves 120 families, but that number grows during the holidays.
“We usually have more people we serve, but we also have more people (who) want to volunteer,” said Beverly Murray, who runs the food bank. “We just try to prepare for what might happen.”
At least 20 people volunteer to work at the food bank during the holidays, she said.
Free meals are distributed on the third Wednesday of each month.
“They're pretty good. We have some good cooks,” Murray said, noting that three churches take turns preparing the meals. “Every month, we have a nice meal for people, which I'm not sure a lot of people know about.”
She said that people interested in volunteering or donating should call the church office at 724-352-2074.
Gleaners Food Bank
Linda Heery, director of the Gleaners Food Bank in Cranberry Township, said demand for food bank services increases in the fall and winter.
“We average between 90 and 100 families a month,” Heery said, “and once heating bills come into play, that's when we get busier until about April or May.”
Heery said about 10 to 15 more families require help during these months, but an increase in food donations often offsets any increase in need.
“The most popular months when we get donations are November, December, January,” she said.
Heery said distribution usually takes place in the last week of the month, but this is adjusted for holidays.
Gleaners often receives food from bakeries in Cranberry and farms that provide produce.
Although the donations may get bigger and the lines may get longer, Heery said Gleaners typically doesn't take on more volunteers for the busier months for confidentiality and efficiency purposes, although there are three substitute volunteers and a number of student volunteers who set up distribution bags in advance.
“Myself and my assistant,” she said, “we know our clients, their names, we know them well. And that's the good thing about having the same volunteers every month.”
The regular volunteers load up clients' cars while the clients look for “odds and ends” they may need, such as shampoo or diapers. Each car is given three bags of nonperishable food and a bag of produce, dairy and meat.
To receive food from the Gleaners Food Bank, Cranberry Township residents must go through an application process.
Eagle staff writer Alexandria Mansfield contributed to this report.