Viewpoint: Give in to the holiday spirit, and do it locally

It’s that time of year when signs are going up around town asking for donations for everything from children’s toys to frozen turkeys. All this stuff (well, hopefully) that people place into collection bins and boxes go out to help those individuals and families who are in a tough part of their lives and need a bit of a holiday boost. We’re all for this giving sort of business. It doesn’t hurt to give a little where you can — not with the expectation of receiving anything in return, but simply for the sake of helping someone out. But places to give are not all equal.

Let’s take Walmart, for instance. The chain doesn’t seem able to keep out of headline controversy for very long. An action from one of its many stores has landed the entire company in the negative public light, thrusting it up and above all the other chain stores under fire for opening their doors earlier than ever for Black Friday. Apparently, a Walmart placed bins in its employee-only area, asking for donations from its employees in order to help out . . . other employees.

People should definitely feel inclined to help out their co-workers when necessary, and not only during this time of year. We’re all in this together. The store managers here likely felt like it was a convenient, no-hassle channel for its employees to help one another. However, Walmart has been criticized for years for the way it treats its employees, particularly over the minimum wage it pays hourly staff, which is technically legal but nearly impossible for many families to live on in the current economic environment, and seems downright ridiculous when you consider how much Walmart rakes in on a second-to-second basis. Many have read this stunt of putting out bins to collect food donations from underpaid employees for other underpaid employees as an almost cruel sign that the company doesn’t care about the people who work for it at all and knows it.

What we’re saying is we’re not huge fans of Walmart.

On a more public and day-to-day scale, it’s about time for the Salvation Army’s red buckets to begin gracing the entrances to stores. The Salvation Army has also been hit by controversy over the years for its religious beliefs, which many claim to affect how and who it decides to help with its gathered funds. Generally, it’s claimed that the group won’t help people who identify as part of the LGBT community. That’s a mixed bag there. Yes, the organization is Christian-based with the belief that any sort of LGBT lifestyle is a sin. Yes, that likely affects its general practices. But yes, it still uses the money it gathers to help people. All we’re saying is to be aware of where your change is going.

If you want to donate at all this season, the best you can do is to donate locally. There are clothing drives for homeless kids and teens popping up all over our region. Our local food banks are always desperate for anything and everything to help the hundreds to thousands of homeless or poor who turn to them for the holidays. We featured an article in our last issue about donations that go toward homeless veterans and various fundraisers that let students have fun and give to a worthy cause at the same time (although the reaches may be a little more worldwide in some cases). The opportunities are all around us, started and headed by our fellow students and community members. Donating to them hits closer to home and avoids some of those controversies that larger organizations run into.

Please give in to that holiday spirit everyone likes to capitalize on and give where you can. It doesn’t have to be much — maybe some gently used coats you or your family member never wears anymore, an extra pack of toothpaste, some spare change or just your time. Many of us know what it’s like to need help, and at any rate, we all could use a little bit of holiday cheer this time of year.