The Kelly family needs an injection of charity. The thought was sparked by my son presenting me with a long gift list for Christmas. “We need to curtail this materialism and teach a bit of giving back to those less fortunate,” I complained to my hubby last week. “Get on the phone,” he responded. “Find out some ways we can give back this season.”

“A few times a year our family makes healthy brown-bag lunches for the homeless,” explained sis Meg. “The kids put together the bags, decorate the outside with pictures, and we hop into the car and pass them out downtown. As we deliver the food, the children get a close look at the homeless and their suffering.”

“Each birthday my children receive a gift from their grandparents of an animal donated in their name to a poor family by Heifer Project International [800-422-0474; heifer.org],” my friend Bernice told me. “My son received a little picture book about a poor girl who could not go to school but then someone gave her family a goat. The little girl was able to sell milk from the goat to afford to go to school. The story was a tangible thing for my son. We wondered together if maybe they named the goat after him.”

I did a little research and found that the Heifer International gift catalog offers many gifts that can be purchased and sent on to the poor throughout the world. A goat costs $120, water buffalo is $250, a trio of rabbits runs $60, and a heifer is $500.

A similar organization is Food for the Poor. “One holiday season I spent hours making truffles for my office coworkers, only to find out that my boss had given them to his two-year-old son,” stated friend Nancy. “The next year I gave gifts through Food for the Poor [800-427-9104; foodforthepoor.org]. It was quick, painless, and everyone felt good knowing they had a fruit tree in their name or some chickens sent in their name to a poor family. It’s the perfect gift for someone who might not need anything.”

“We make hats, sweaters, booties, and afghans for preemies and newborns in hospitals all over the United States,” said Stell Voelker, San Diego County Coordinator for Stitches from the Heart (619-582-3273; stitchesfromtheheart.org). “It was started by a lady in the Los Angeles area when she noticed that you couldn’t buy clothes small enough for preemies. We are mostly knitters or crocheters, but there are a few blanket makers, some quilters. Babies come in all sizes, so we take donations all sizes. The smaller hats we say would fit over an orange and the larger ones would fit over a grapefruit and the ideal size for the afghans is 30 by 40 inches. We have lots of patterns that are really easy.”

My daughter would love to knit blankets for babies; my son, not so much. He might take to volunteering, though. “We serve 1.7 million meals a year, on average 4000 a day, 365 days a year,” said Father Joe Carroll of Father Joe’s Villages, located at 15th and Imperial. The shelter cares for 985 residents who receive three meals a day and another 1400 a day that walk in off of the street for the daily 11 o’clock meal. “Thanksgiving and Christmas volunteering fill up quickly, but other days throughout the year still need to be covered,” he explained. “And there are lots of ways to volunteer besides in the kitchen. During the year, we need people to teach computers, people to work with children, people to teach English as a second language, medical professionals to volunteer in our medical clinic.”

Is there an age requirement for volunteering?

“If you are under 12, you have to be with a parent. I am an old Boy Scout leader, and I like youth to volunteer. We have a lot of young groups coming down to volunteer; they can work in the kitchen, or we give them other jobs to do. Plus, youth groups can do drives, like collect new socks for children. That makes a great Christmas gift for us to give out because the kids need new socks.”

Father added another way to help. “Henry’s Farmers Market came up with a creative idea called Grab ’n’ Give. They have various bags of prepared groceries, which you pay for at the register; they put it in a barrel, and we pick it up. They are items that we know we can use. Part of the food goes to other food banks that we help out.

“And if people get coupons for turkeys from their bosses that they’re not going to use, we take those too,” he added.

For those wanting to work up a little appetite while giving on Turkey Day itself, “We started our Thanksgiving Day 5K Run/Walk [thanksgivingrun.org]. People can start the day out by running or walking through Balboa Park to help pay for meals for the homeless.”

Another run event happening on Thanksgiving morning: Run for the Hungry (kathyloperevents.com), which starts at Petco Park East. Proceeds will go to the San Diego Food Bank, which gives away 10 million meals a year, and Jewish Family Services’ Foodmobile, which brings hot meals to 28,000 homebound and elderly people.

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