Holiday Giving Shows Kids the Importance of Reaching Out to the Needy

By Cathi Douglas     12/16/2019

Teaching children that the world doesn’t revolve around them is challenging at any time of year, but at Christmas it’s particularly tough.  

Yet the holidays most dramatically show our kids the stark difference between the bounty we’ve been blessed with verses the predicament of those less fortunate. 

Christmas, then, is the perfect time to give generously of our ‘time, talent, and treasures’ and, at the same time, teach our kids the essential values of caring and generosity. 


Giving to the society of St. Vincent de Paul 

“Giving at Christmas is important to show kids that it’s not just ‘all about me,’” says Brigid Noonan, president of the Orange County Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and a member of Holy Family Cathedral parish.  

“There’s a whole lot of need out there,” Noonan continues, “and the need is more pronounced this time of year.” The society needs grocery store gift cards, bus passes, money for families who need to pay rent and utility bills, and assistance in packing and delivering groceries to the needy.  

With 25 St. Vincent de Paul conferences in the Diocese of Orange, Noonan says, the organization depends on gifts from parishioners at more than 60 parishes. “There are many ways you can help,” she notes, “and families should consider doing so on some kind of regular basis.” 

“I’ve been president of the conference at Holy Family since 2015 and involved in St. Vincent de Paul since 2013, and I’m seeing fewer families calling in for assistance and many more seniors asking for help,” she observes. 

To donate money or time to St. Vincent de Paul, contact your parish or call the Orange County office at 714-542-0448. 


Donations to OC’s Catholic Schools. 

Anytime of year is the right time to give to Orange County’s Catholic Schools, says Debbie Loughran, the Diocese of Orange’s assistant superintendent for Catholic school development. “But this time of year, people are making a lot of choices about where to donate at year’s end,” notes Loughran, a member of St. Norbert’s Church in Orange. 

“Choosing to support the Catholic schools in any way is transformational in someone’s life, in our community, and in our society,” she adds. In addition to outright cash gifts, certain schools need unused, new items as varied as tricycles and sports equipment or classroom equipment.  

“Catholic education has been transformational in my life and it’s just imperative for me to be part of the process to make our schools part of the diocese’s priorities,” she says. 

Dr. Brad Snyder, director of Educational Programs, notes that parents teaching their children about outreach to the needy can choose to give in creative ways, such as sponsoring a school’s sports team or paying a child’s annual $75 sports fee.  

“Something as simple as paying that fee is really powerful thing,” Snyder says.  “You’re not helping just a poor kid but you’re also helping the entire Catholic community as these kids experience what it’s like to be part of a team.” 

Families also may pay $150 so that a needy child in one of three low-income Santa Ana parishes – St. Joseph’s, St. Anne’s and the School of Our Lady – can learn to play a musical instrument in the Marian Alliance band.  

Interested in contributing to OC Catholic Schools? Call the Office of the Superintendent at 714-282-3056 or visit rcbo.org/catholic-schools. 


Gifts for Catholic Charities 

Teresa Tita Smith, executive director of Catholic Charities of Orange County, agrees that it’s important for Catholic families to be generous at the holidays.  “We try to foster a culture of sharing God’s love and the first place we can do that is in our family,” Smith notes.  

“Giving back is an extension of our faith and also teaches our children the human qualities of generosity and unity. We are so blessed to have multigenerational families celebrating together and some of us are even blessed with a fourth generation.”  

“Those of us who have something tangible to share at this time of year must take the opportunity to do so in ways that respect the dignity of our brothers and sisters, while carrying out the gospel message to love one another.”  

Catholic Charities offers an Adopt-a-Family program through which families can choose to sponsor an entire family or a single-family member, Smith notes. In addition, the organization provides 750 bags of groceries each week at its Cantlay Center food bank. “We always can use groceries,” she says. “It’s holiday time, so it’s a good time for cocoa, packaged cookies, cranberry sauce – all of the holiday-type foods.”  

Coming up is an opportunity for families to donate time, toys, and cash. The organization’s annual Three Kings Day takes place Jan. 3 and will offer hundreds of toys – provided by private donors, police and fire departments, and others – to needy kids. In addition to toys, Catholic Charities needs children’s books, art supplies, warm socks and caps, and other accessories useful in colder weather. 

“It seems to me the season of Jesus’s birth provides us with a natural time to model to our children that sharing is part of the business of life,” Smith adds. 

To give to Catholic Charities, call 714-347-9600. Donations can be dropped off at the office at 1820 E. 16th St., Santa Ana. Food donations can be left at the Cantlay Center, 2020 W. Chestnut St., Santa Ana. 


Giving thanks through the Knights of Columbus 

Knights of Columbus, an organization of Catholic men with 50 councils and 7,000 members throughout Orange County, offers a number of opportunities to give at the holidays and beyond, says Ronn Knowles, the county chapter past president, who belongs to St. Mary by the Sea parish in Huntington Beach. “We promote keeping Christ in Christmas, and this time of year we encourage families to be more spiritual and more generous,” Knowles says. “Donating at Christmastime is a big help to organizations like ours.” 

Among other efforts, the Knights have a Coats for Kids program, a Wheelchairs for Veterans program, and gave $260,000 last year to help kids and adults with disabilities, he notes.  

“Just as Catholic parents show their children that attending Sunday Mass is a priority, they can influence their children by doing the right thing,” he adds, such as giving to Catholic charities such as the Knights. 

Families are invited to give cash donations to their parish Knights council, or for more information: https://occhaptercharities.org/help-us/ 


Supporting your parish 

Mike McLean, business manager at Holy Family Parish, and his wife Kathi taught their three children the importance of offering regularly scheduled gifts to their parish. 

“It instills in the children the idea that you can’t continually take, take, and take,” McLean explains. “Our kids saw us help around the parish, not just at Christmas but all year, and knew that we gave additional support to the Church so that it could carry on the ministries the parish offers,” such as first holy communion, confirmation, RCIA and other outreach activities. 

To give to your parish, call the office, fill out a giving envelope, or see the volunteers at your church’s hospitality ministry.