The key to a more interesting life: Helping a Marine help a kid.

Psst. Hey you, you in the workplace. You sitting in an office wishing your life had more oomph. More passion. More meaning. Think beyond the romantic, can’t-think-of-anything-else kind of passion (I really can’t help you with that) to the soul stirring, inspiration kind achieved when you know you are making a difference in the world by being part of something bigger than you could manage alone.

Of course I have a suggestion, since I’m convinced we all want to lead meaningful, interesting lives but sometimes we just need a little inspiration or a simple way to do it, with a short-term commitment. I have a suggestion to strum even the strongest American heartstring: Support a Marine, a needy child and a family in crisis by giving a few hours of your time this holiday season!

This is a real and urgent plea for help.

The Marines have long supported (and been the front-and-center icon for) the Toys for Tots program. This year, about 190 of the volunteer slots formerly filled by area Marine volunteers will be vacant — not by choice, but due to military deployment. Meanwhile, Sun Prairie is not able to host its own holiday program this year, and so about 500 families from that area will be added to the holiday waiting list. The need for assistance this year — as families are coming to the absolute end of their resources during this recession — is unprecedented … at the same time that there is the least available human resources (as well as financial resources) to meet that need.

And what great timing, right? You were recently thinking of how you might make the holiday season more meaningful this year! You were wondering if there would be a workplace opportunity to make a difference to those in need! You were thinking of investigating if there was a personal volunteer opportunity to help support a military person who is serving our country far from home, who would appreciate knowing you are their stand-in here, for their favorite project, while they are away!

The answer is yes! I can connect you with those opportunities!

The Dane County Salvation Army desperately needs volunteers now to help process the families on the Toys for Tots waiting list to connect them with greatly appreciated holiday support. There is a training session involved, and then it is a matter of manning a computer for a couple hours whenever you can be available to be scheduled. Also, there are opportunities to work with the families taking children’s measurements, wrapping gifts, etc.

It’s easy to connect with the right people, too. Deb Crye is responsible for manning the Alliant Center, where holiday help is given to families. Her phone number is 608-250-2218. Her e-mail address is Debra_Crye@usc.salvationarmy.org.

Intake for families will take place at the Salvation Army site at 3030 Darbo Drive (just off Washington Avenue by the McDonald’s west of Stoughton Avenue). Volunteers are needed every day of November, beginning November 1. You can see that there would be a huge need for help at that site. To help with registering families on a computer software system (basic computer literacy is the only requirement, plus a short training session) — contact Katie Casey at Katie_Casey@usc.salvationarmy.org or call her at 608-250-2256.

Tell them Jody sent you (with a grateful heart for all that they do for the community with your help). Then, if you’d be so pay-it-forward thinking, I’d also appreciate it if you could forward this blog to others who might want to find something special this holiday season, too (like your H.R. department? Or boss?).

This is my gift to you and your friends, work colleagues and loved ones this week: The opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime — for you as well as for the children and neighbors you could reach out to in their greatest time of need.

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