‘Tis the Season of Giving Back

The Howard County Times posts a list of different charities every winter holiday season with the hope that people will donate to others in need. The list includes charities benefiting animals, children, disability services, education, the elderly, the environment and the needy.

Some featured charities on the list include the Pinnacle Empowerment Center, an organization founded to empower women in work and school settings, Icing Smiles, a charity dedicated to giving treats to families who have children with critical illnesses, and the National Center for Healthy Housing, an organization created to provide children with healthy housing opportunities. The list includes over 120 local non-profit organizations where goods and services can be donated.

A charity highlighted by the Howard County Times is The Linwood Center, which is dedicated to helping kids with autism. The goal of the program is to create opportunities for children and adults with autism, allowing them to have educational and vocational training, support with housing, and help finding employment opportunities.

“The CDC estimates that one in 55 children in Maryland has a diagnosis on the spectrum, which is slightly higher than the national average of one in 68,” said Peyton Housman, the Development and Communications Coordinator of Linwood Center. “Linwood Center has a very unique history in the autism community as one of the first programs in the world to provide a haven for children and adults who were once destined for institutionalization.

“We provide much-needed services to these individuals, including a school program, supported employment program, and community-based residential services,” Housman continued. “We work with children and adults throughout the lifespan — from ages five and up — to help them build the necessary social skills, life skills, and job skills needed to successfully live and work in community settings. Our goal is to empower individuals with autism to make their own choices, discover what makes them happy, and become independent. Our participants live in integrated neighborhoods and many work or volunteer at local businesses in Maryland, making them productive and contributing members of society,”

Through the holiday season, the Linwood Center is asking for financial donations as well as donations of gently-used or new items to be put in their Boutique for their clients to shop in.

One of the charities under the environment category is the Center for Watershed Protection. The Center for Watershed Protection helps to protect and restore the streams, rivers, bays and lakes of Maryland. The organization’s staff of environmental professionals and scientists help to find new ways to help the environment as well as set policies to prevent future damage to the bodies of water in Maryland.

Hye Yeong Kwon, the Executive Director of the Center for Watershed Protection, said, “[The organization] worked on stormwater design manuals for nine states and the District of Columbia, reviewed local development regulations for 75 communities to evaluate how well they work to encourage environmentally-friendly development, developed management plans for nearly 100 watersheds in 12 states and U.S. territories, designed and/or oversaw construction for more than 70 stormwater Best Management Practices to treat polluted runoff from development sites with no existing treatment, helped over a dozen communities find and track down the sources of illegal sewage discharges to the stream, [and] established the first of its kind professional membership program for watershed and stormwater professionals.”

Kwon said the most necessary ways to give back to the communities is to donate funds to the foundation and to help daily with cleaning local streams, picking up litter, and conserving water.

Another organization on the list is Neighbor Ride Inc., which provides transportation to the elderly population of Howard County. They serve those 60 years old or older. They provide transportation every day of the week, and while they do charge for the transportation, it is lower than the price of a Lyft, Uber or other taxi services.

Trips are provided to medical appointments, for grocery shopping, to the gym, to religious services, to work, to volunteer activities, for social engagements/outings, to education classes or whatever activities are important to our clients,” said Bruce Fulton, Executive Director of Neighbor Ride.

Fulton also commented on the impact of Neighbor Ride Inc. “The one-on-one interaction between our volunteers and clients is cited by both volunteers and clients as the most rewarding part of the experience. One of my favorite statistics about Neighbor Ride is that we have created nearly 29,000 unique pairings of drivers and clients — both being Howard County residents — in the history of our organization. When lives intersect, I becomes we, and our community grows stronger.”

Neighbor Ride Inc. needs volunteers to drive clients and any kind of financial donations to go towards car cleaning and gas.

Another charity on the list that falls under the animal category is the Animal Welfare Society. The purpose of this organization is to find and shelter as many homeless animals as possible.

“We help the community by providing a place for homeless pets in Howard County,” said a representative from the Animal Welfare Society. “We are a resource in the community for those who need help with their pets, and we serve as a place for people to bring stray animals they find until their families can be found. If no family claims the lost pet, we will find a home for the animal. We are a no-kill shelter, so we do not euthanize animals if they are not adopted within a certain time period.  Once an animal comes to us, they are with us for life if a suitable family cannot be found.”

For the holiday season, this organization is asking for cat litter, dog and cat food, paper towels, treats for the animals and old sheets and blankets to put in the animals’ crates.  

A charity under the history and culture category is the Howard County Arts Council. The Howard County Arts Council’s Community and Web Relations Director, Pam Perna, described what this organization does.

“The Howard County Arts Council sponsors a wide variety of arts initiatives that nurture and strengthen the arts,” Perna said. “We award grants and scholarships, provide advancement opportunities for artists and arts organizations, create an environment for open expression and exchange, encourage people of all ages to discover their own artistic talents, and act as the primary voice and advocate for the Howard County arts community. And, we provide a home for the arts at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City.”

During the busy holiday season, the Howard County Arts Council needs funds and volunteers for their open houses and art shows.

Through these organizations, Howard County reaches out to the community to donate goods and services to those less fortunate during the holiday season. At Mt. Hebron, students have many ways they get involved in their community.

Sophomore James Morgan said he gives back during the holiday season by participating in the Canned Food Drive and by donating to the Red Kettle Organization. The Canned Food Drive raises thousands of dollars and cans for families in need each year.

“I give back by wrapping presents and delivering them to people in Baltimore. I also participate in the Canned Food Drive,” said sophomore Mackenzie Strozyk.

There are many opportunities for students and community members to volunteer and donate goods throughout the entire holiday season.

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