Giving Good, Giving Back

GIVEimageThe holidays seem to get more and more hectic every year, but if we take a moment to reflect, we can remember what this season is really about and flip the script on the hustle, bustle and self-centered pursuits we find ourselves bogged down with.

By looking out instead of inward, we see the needs all around us, and by taking action to support someone less fortunate (at any time but especially this time of year), we create a healthier, more connected community and often, find we’re just as uplifted as those we seek to help.

To make it easier than ever to reach out and give back, we’ve put together a quick list of River Region-area organizations and programs that will assist you in assisting others.

Hands On River Region, Christmas Clearinghouse

So many families right here in our area suffer silently during the holidays, struggling to provide the basics for their loved ones, much less decorate, feast or exchange presents. But thanks to the Christmas Clearinghouse — the River Region’s largest charitable Christmas giving program — you can give these families hope by showing them some love. Hands On River Region partners with more than 40 social service and faith-based organizations to find needy local families and match them with generous individuals or groups who want to brighten their Christmas.  Approximately 10,000 individuals in the River Region — including more than 8,000 children — are registered annually with the Christmas Clearinghouse and helping them is simple. Contact the program, and they’ll give you a family to “adopt” along with a wish list of gifts and essentials that you can buy for your family. You can either deliver the items to the family yourself, or let Christmas Clearinghouse do it for you. You can also choose to make a monetary donation or contribute household items for Care Baskets to be given to registered families.

Salvation Army Red Kettle

Some of the most iconic and enduring symbols of Christmas for many are the Salvation Army’s red donation kettle and the friendly folks ringing a bell to remind you to slip some money into the kettle’s slot. Dropping some spare change or better yet, a few bills, in that red metal vessel is one of the easiest ways to be a part of something good this season. And you can rest easy, knowing your money is used effectively and efficiently to help local individuals and families, since the Salvation Army is one of the most trusted charities around. If you want to take things a step farther, and teach your kids the true spirit of the season, sign up to be bell ringers as family. Click the “volunteer” page on the Salvation Army’s website to sign up for this and other volunteer opportunities.

AIM Storybook Program

Aid to Inmate Mothers is a truly special outreach program that works with women in prison in our state. It encourages and provides resources for personal growth but also works to strengthen the relationships between incarcerated mothers and their children. AIM’s Storybook program is one of the ways it accomplishes its mission. While imprisoned moms can’t be around to read books to their children, through this program, in a way, they can. Volunteers go to prisons one Saturday a month and help the mothers prepare a DVD recording of them reading a book to send to their children. The children’s books read are donated by local churches, businesses, organizations and individuals. You can support this program by donating books, giving funds for recording equipment or volunteering to record the stories.

Joy to Life Foundation

You can be a part of the great — and live-saving work — that the Joy to Life Foundation does by donating any time of year, but as you think about others during this season, consider making a financial gift to the Foundation in honor or memory of someone who’s struggled with breast cancer. The funds raised by JTL go directly to pay for mammograms for medically underserved women throughout Alabama as well as to efforts to promote breast cancer awareness.

Furry Friends Foster Fitness

by Sarah Schmidt Dozens of scientific studies conducted over the past decade show that pets are more than just furry friends; they actually add years onto the life expectancy of their owners. In addition, pets significantly improve their owners’ quality of life and contribute to their overall health in surprising ways. For example, one study […]

The Fine Art of: Giving & Getting Compliments

“Your hair looks great like that.” “You make the best apple pie!” Who doesn’t love hearing nice things? Compliments are important aspects of our daily interactions; they can help you start new relationships and strengthen existing ones. But do you know how to properly give a really good compliment? And do you know how to […]

The Power of Forgiveness

English poet Alexander Pope famously wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” And for many spiritual people, the notion of forgiveness is a central tenet of their faith, a selfless act bestowed upon someone who has wronged them just as they have been forgiven themselves. But learning how to truly forgive is not just […]

In Balance: Realization & Relief

One Woman’s Results from Genetic Breast Cancer Screening By Sarah J. Schmidt Editor’s note: LEAN‘s spring issue featured a story by Sarah about two Alabama women who were taking advantage of HudsonAlpha & Kailos Genetics‘ free breast cancer genetic screening for 30-year olds. Here, Schmidt follows up with one of those women after she receives […]

New Lung Cancer Screening Offers Hope

by Dr. Bill Saliski      Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. In 2013, lung cancer diagnosis and subsequent deaths outnumbered breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. Advances in surgical, radiotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic approaches have been made, but the long-term survival remains low. Unfortunately, […]

Free Genetic Test Screens for Breast & Ovarian Cancer

By Sarah J. Schmidt If a simple test could predict with exceptional accuracy that you will get cancer, would you want to know? Huntsville native Andrea Williams doesn’t have to think twice. Her answer: a resounding “yes.” With a family history of breast cancer, 30-year old Williams knows she’s at higher risk than most women. […]

You Are What You Eat (and Don’t Eat)

By Cheyenne Martin Staying healthy in today’s world takes focus. It means being intentional about exercise and healthy eating. But for some, that focus goes beyond healthy and results in eating disorders rife with shame, guilt and secrecy. Oftentimes, they become a way to cope with depression and anxiety. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating […]

Second-Hand Smoke, First-Hand Disease

By Cheyenne Martin In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control reported approximately 18.1 percent of the U.S. population (or 42.1 million adults) smoked. It’s a staggering number, and the health risks these people will face are, by now, well-rehearsed. But if you think you are immune from lung cancer, heart disease or stroke because you […]

Hanging Tough

Five years ago, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill threatened the future of Alabama’s coastal communities as gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, killing wildlife, dirtying the turquoise waters, staining the white-sand beaches and tainting seafood harvests. Today, the area has bounced back from the disaster: the beaches are […]