CINCINNATI -- When it comes to holiday gift-giving, most agree it’s the thought that counts. Friends and relatives aren’t going to buy the perfect gift every time, and let’s face it: By January, some of those well-intended gifts are already starting to collect dust.
Now that holiday festivities are over, it’s time to find a good home for the ill-fitting sweater you received with no accompanying receipt, that gift card your family will never use and those few still-in-the-box toys your children ignored once the wrapping paper hit the floor.
There are also those extra cans of veggies in your pantry that didn’t make the cut for Christmas dinner. And what about all the "old" items you’re clearing out of the closet this month to make room for new ones?
Nonprofits throughout Greater Cincinnati provide the perfect solution for all your post-holiday castaways. There are countless dedicated groups serving our neighbors in need, so when it comes to places to donate, there’s a lot to choose from in nearly every community. Here are a few local organizations that are sure to put your extra holiday food and unwanted gifts into the hands of children and adults -- or the paws of rescued pets -- who could use a kind gesture.
Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky
The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky is the place to donate items if your family ended up with a few too many bath and body gift sets over the holidays, or if you have men’s razors, socks or underwear to give. Coffee is also a sought-after donation this time of year because it helps warm up the guests when they arrive at the shelter.
The Covington-based nonprofit provides the region’s homeless with a warm and safe place to sleep during the cold winter months. (More than 300 men and women have visited since Nov. 1.) The shelter also hosts a transitional recovery program for men to help get them into stable housing. In the summer months, it offers a shower and laundry outreach program for both men and women.
"We’re the only emergency cold shelter in Northern Kentucky," said executive director Kim Webb. "Our mission is life-saving in the winter months and life-changing in the summer, and we couldn’t do that without the support of the community."
The organization is about 90 percent privately funded, so donations -- no matter how small -- are its bread and butter, she said.
Tips if you donate: The shelter collects items throughout the year but has limited storage, so make sure your donations match the season. About 80 percent of its guests are men. The shelter is currently stocked with clothes, but there is always a critical need for men’s jeans sized 34 and under, according to Webb. Socks and underwear are always needed as well, as are personal hygiene items.
Additionally, the shelter has a small staff, so it’s a good idea to call ahead and give them a heads-up if you’ll be dropping off donations.
If you didn’t make all those holiday dishes you had planned and your kitchen pantry is bursting at the seams, you can donate all kinds of nonperishable food items to the Freestore Foodbank.
The Cincinnati-based nonprofit distributes about 23 million meals each year through hundreds of community partners in 20 counties across the Tri-State. It also hosts services aimed at fighting local hunger and its root causes.
"Hunger is a 24/7 problem," said Sarah Cook of the Freestore Foodbank. "We rely on community support all year long."
The nonprofit accepts clothing, personal care items and, of course, food donations. The group makes it super easy to donate and even has a drive-thru bay at its Customer Connection Center in Over-the-Rhine. Workers there will unload the donations for you, Cook said.
If you donate: The Freestore Foodbank always needs food, but there’s also a critical need for personal care items. The best food to donate is canned meat products, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit and baby formula.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
If you’re looking to put a smile on a sick child’s face, donate your new and unopened toys or gift cards to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
The hospital is always in need of donations for the children it treats, according to donor relations coordinator Anna Kuertz.
Cincinnati Children's collects toys, craft supplies and games all year for children of all ages at both its main and Liberty campus. Everything has to be new and in its original packaging, and there are some safety guidelines.
If you donate: Donations most needed right now include teen items, gift cards (in increments of $5, $10 and $15), pajamas and infant teethers and rattles, Kuertz said.
Stray Animal Adoption Program (SAAP)
Greater Cincinnati is fortunate to have a lot of active pet rescue organizations, and SAAP is one of them. If you have some pet food, treats or toys to donate, the all-volunteer rescue will put them to good use, according to director Bob Howard.
The group’s network of foster families care for abandoned and abused pets and work to get them healthy, socialized and ready for a forever family.
The Northern Kentucky-based rescue accepts donations throughout the year for its rescued pets, but volunteers also collect gift cards and other items to be used in raffle baskets at fundraising events, he said.
If you donate: SAAP’s current wish list includes dry pet food, collapsible metal crates, kitty litter, leashes and collars, gift cards and cleaning supplies.