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Making a Difference

As you may know, today is (was) Make a Difference Day. Sponsored by USA Weekend and HandsOn Network for 20 years, this annual event is a national day of helping others.

If you and your family didn’t participate, don’t worry. There are countless ways you can still help your neighbors, locally and globally. Following is information about and links to some programs that we are—or soon will be—participating in ourselves.

Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a kids-helping-kids project of Samaritan’s Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoe boxes to let hurting children know that they are loved and not forgotten.

In 2010, Operation Christmas Child will reach more than 8 million children—many of whom have never received a gift before—with a message of hope and love.

Right now, kids, families, churches, scout troops, schools, civic clubs and businesses are fi lling their shoe boxes. In addition to collecting shoe box gifts year-round at the headquarters in Boone, N.C., Samaritan’s Purse will be collecting gift-fi lled shoe boxes at more than 2,700 drop-off sites in all 50 states during National Collection Week, Nov. 15-22, 2010.

More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, including some 100,000 volunteers in the United States, will then help prepare the boxes for transport to distant lands. If you and your children want to pack some shoe boxes to contribute to this vast effort, visit this page. To find the nearest drop-off location call (800) 353-5949 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

(Author’s note: we didn’t find out about this program until it was too late for last year’s collection, so we started working on our boxes at the beginning of 2010, picking up reduced-price items after Christmas, during back-to-school sales and at other times throughout the year. If you don’t think you’re ready to help this year, why not start preparing a few shoe boxes for 2011?)

Any Soldier™

Any Soldier Inc. (www.AnySoldier.comhelps nearly 100,000 American soldiers in all branches of the military, both active duty and reservists, and has become one of the leading efforts for making sure the men and women of all U.S. military branches who have been deployed are cared for via letters and packages from “home.”

All of the soldiers involved in this effort are military volunteers stationed in areas that are in harm’s way. AnySoldier.com features emails from different military personnel regarding the type of support needed in the field. Such support is typically in the form of a simple letter or package, toiletries, food or even newspapers and magazines. Donors address their letters and packages to the writer’s name but also add the words “ATTN: Any Soldier” on the second line. The writer shares the mail with fellow servicemen and women, ensuring that those who don’t get much mail—or any mail—receive letters and packages first. Everything is shared.

As of today (10/23/10), Any Soldier Inc. has served 1,710,096 troops.

Hugs and Hope

Hugs and Hope is a nationwide, Internet-based group of almost 3,000 volunteers devoted to providing smiles for kids with serious illnesses, injuries or handicaps. According to their website, they brighten children’s lives in several ways, including mailing thousands of cheery cards each year, sending balloon bouquets and birthday party supplies to hospitalized children, granting wishes and providing thousands of Christmas gifts through their Elf Project.

Here are a few more items from the FAQs at hugsandhope.org.

“Parents tell me it makes a tremendous difference. It’s been proven in scientific studies that laughing, smiling, and having something to look forward to can not only improve your mental outlook and attitude; but it can positively affect your physical health as well. Parents have verified this fact. Children who are lethargic and won’t eat or get out of bed suddenly are eager to get up each day and get dressed. They happily wait for the mail to arrive. Kids often comment about how great it is to know that so many people care about them.”

“With very little effort, anyone can make a huge difference right now for sick kids. It takes just a few minutes and can cost less than a dollar; but anyone can lick a stamp and mail a cheery card to make a child’s day.”

“To become a hug giver and hope builder, all you need is a caring heart. Sending cards or donating money are only two of many ways to give. Folks of any age and ability can share their unique, creative talents. People who enjoy sewing make security blankets and soft pillow cases that kids can take with them to the hospital. Musicians donate tapes. Authors contribute books. Children can draw pictures, and grandmothers can sponsor a child at Christmas.”

“Our combined efforts can accomplish so much. Together, we can make a difference—one smile at a time.”

>>>

What have I done to make a difference? Is the life I lead worth someone else dying for?

“It’s not an idle question. Many have died for our freedom. Even now, the men and women of our armed forces are in harm’s way and some may not return to their homes and families. The majority of us here will never be called upon to defend our nation with our lives, but each of us should live a life worthy of those who have.”

— Deena Burnett (Bailey), widow of 9/11 Flight 93 hero Tom Burnett, in a speech on 10/9/01 (from Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves by Deena Burnett with Anthony F. Giombetti)

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