Twin Cities Charities Need Your Help

Organizers of holiday food and toy drives in the Twin Cities metro area are gearing up to give away more turkeys, food baskets and toys this year than ever before, despite the difficult fundraising climate.

First and foremost, since it is deer hunting season, hunters can easily help the hungry. Minnesota food shelves are eager for venison donations. A state venison donation program accepts whole deer carcasses, complete with the hide and registration tag. Donated deer must show no signs of illness, decomposition or contamination.

Armful of Love, a holiday charity run by the Community Action Council in Burnsville, matches sponsors to families in need. Sponsors are given a list of the client's needs and wants for Christmas, including gifts for children  and help for the parents. The sponsors go out and buy gifts, wrap them and bring them to the Armful of Love warehouse, where the families in need pick them up.

Guests of the Minnesota Zoo during the holiday season can get admission discounts if they bring along a food donation for Second Harvest Heartland. For each donation of a nonperishable food item, guests get a $2 discount on adult admission and a $1 discount on child and senior admission. The most-needed items include meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, boxed meals, grains and pasta, hygiene products and cleaning supplies. The discount runs through December. The discounts are valid only one per person.

Some northern Twin Cities metro programs are looking for help as well. The Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP) in Brooklyn Park, has seen 25 to 45% jumps from 2007 in the number of families asking for food. CEAP had to open a third pantry in Maple Grove this October to ease the strain on its Blaine and Brooklyn Park locations. The Southern Anoka County Assistance (SACA) office in Columbia Heights is also swamped. Organizers of Toys for Joy, an annual food and toy program in Anoka County, believe they'll be able to serve 5,000 kids and their families this holiday season, up from 4,200 in 2008. A toy drive is being held through a network of some 20 churches in Anoka County.

Don't forget the Governor's Mansion is an official collection site for Second Harvest Heartland. If you choose to visit December 8th or 15th to see it decorated for the holidays, bring a donation for the food shelf with you.

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