COLORADO SPRINGS — “[It is] just a gift to deal with people that come in and are in need,” said Brent Coates a volunteer helping out at the Marion House Marketplace.
Coates volunteers several times a week at the food pantry that offers grocery items to people in need.
There is added satisfaction this time of year because his efforts help people enjoy Christmas time.
“There was a time when I used the services here,” said Coates, “and I was given a chance to give it back.”
Leaders of local non-profits say there are many generous people in Southern Colorado offering money and time to help others.
“This is such a great season of giving and people's hearts are drawn to finding ways to help those who are less fortunate than they are,” said Catholic Charities, Chief Operating Officer, Lorri Orwig.
With the praise, there is also the advice to use some wisdom when giving.
“What we've also found is that sometimes individual’s ideas of charity aren't ways that actually help somebody who's experiencing a challenge,” said Travis Williams with Springs Rescue Mission.
Orwig said, “There are a lot of different ways that they can do that, that will have a lasting and much longer impact than just handing a sandwich or a pair of socks to somebody who is standing on a street corner.”
Offering something to someone out on the streets is not necessarily wrong.
The caution is, issues that are often unrecognized.
For example, crews that clean up urban camps find piles of discarded blankets, clothing, and food items that may have been used for a day and then end up filling dumpsters.
Aid groups can offer ways to keep people warm, food to eat, also resource connections that can lead to other kinds of help.
“To move away from enabling, which sometimes allows people to survive for maybe just a moment, to empowering to help them to find ways to thrive, for a longer period of time,” said Williams.
If a person’s motivation to offer help includes a desire for face-to-face interaction, aid leaders say volunteering is personal, also educational.
“From now until the end of the year, we are absolutely in need of volunteers,” said Orwig.
“Come alongside people, help understand what challenges people are really facing, because in the community we may believe that the challenge is just a blanket, but the real struggle is so much more,” said Williams.
The suggestion is to combine compassion with some research on how your gift can best help others.