Valley nonprofit groups have own Christmas wish lists

Christmas is a time for giving. And when the holidays roll around, valley nonprofit organizations that spend the rest of the year giving to others might appreciate a gift or two, too.

We asked representatives of several nonprofits about the things that might appear on their Christmas lists this year. Here, for Southern Nevadans who wish to spread a bit of holiday goodwill, is what they said.

Remember, however, that these agencies provide help to others year-round and that gifts on every other holiday of the year would be much-appreciated, too.

GRANTING SPECIAL WISHES

The mission of Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada is to “grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Caleen Johnson, the organization’s executive director.

Since its creation in 1996, the local chapter has granted about 1,400 wishes, she said.

Wishes fall into four basic categories, according to Johnson: “I wish to go – ‘I wish to go on a trip’ or ‘I wish to visit the Bahamas’ or something like that; I wish to have – ‘I wish to have a computer or a puppy or a playhouse ‘; I wish to be – ‘I wish to be a doctor for a day or a sports car driver for a day or an astronaut for the day.’

“Then, the last category is ‘I wish to meet,’ and that’s usually a celebrity.”

Every wish is “100 percent funded by private donations,” Johnson said. “We don’t get any government money or anything like that. So individuals, corporations and foundations actually are the ones who make all those wishes come true.”

And, Johnson said, each Make-A-Wish chapter is “an independent organization, so the money that’s raised in Southern Nevada stays in Southern Nevada.”

Monetary donations always are welcome. So are donations of unused airline miles.

“Make-A-Wish, the international organization, uses about 2 billion – that’s a B – airline miles a year,” Johnson said. “That’s a huge thing people can donate.”

“Another thing we can always use for our children is gift cards,” Johnson added. The cards can be used to purchase items for Make-A-Wish clients and their brothers and sisters.

Those who wish to make a gift of their time also can choose to become Make-A-Wish volunteers who can help out in the office and at events, or even participate in the process of granting wishes.

(To find out more, contact 212-9474 or go online at www.snv.wish.org)

IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE FOR VETERANS

Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Nevada chapter, founded in 1999, works to “improve the quality of life for U.S. military veterans and others who have spinal cord dysfunction,” said Julie Johnson, its executive director.

The Nevada chapter this year has served almost 900 clients, Johnson noted, including veterans who don’t have spinal cord injuries but who were assisted in applying for veterans benefits.

Those who wish to lend a hand this holiday season, as well as year-round, may provide monetary donations that will help the agency support teams and athletes participating in such adaptive sports as bowling and trapshooting.

The organization also organizes clothing drives to benefit low-income and homeless veterans. Monetary contributions are welcome for that, Johnson said, as are donations of gently used or new jackets, pants, shirts and shoes and new underwear and socks, all in adult sizes.

The chapter also accepts donations of used cars and vehicles that it can repair, if needed, and then resell. In addition, those looking for a used vehicle can check out the organization’s inventory at 4000 Boulder Highway.

The organization also can use volunteers to help out at its events, which include a trapshooting event in March and a 5k “walk, run and roll” fundraiser in April Johnson said.

(To find out more, call 646-0040 or visit www.nevadapva.org)

FOSTERING INDEPENDENCE

The Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow’s goal is to help unemployed and underemployed Southern Nevadans build a tomorrow “independent of public assistance,” said Janet Blumen, CEO and a co-founder.

FIT offers “an entirely individual-based program,” Blumen said. Clients are matched with a case manager who will work with the client throughout the entire process of assessment, vocational training and, eventually, landing a job.

And, Blumen said, “it needs to be a job that pays enough to support the client’s whole family and get them off public assistance.”

Basic literacy skills, if necessary, are taught in-house. If vocational training is necessary, “we’ll pay tuition, we’ll buy books and school supplies,” she said.

FIT also will provide, if needed, such support services as bus passes, food vouchers and work clothing, help the client obtain such workforce prerequisites as a sheriff’s card, and work with the client in learning job hunting, resume writing and interviewing skills.

During the past three program years, FIT helped 1,270 people become employed, Blumen said. All overhead and administrative costs are paid through fundraisers and special events, she said, and “100 percent of all donor dollars go to client expenses.”

Donated gift cards – to such stores as Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart – can be used to purchase work clothing and other goods for clients. Similarly, gift cards and monetary donations are used to purchase shampoo, toothpaste and other necessities for clients.

Also welcome would be money that FIT can use to purchase discounted bus passes for clients, and such office supplies as flash drives on which clients can store resumes and work documents.

Blumen said donors even may designate that their donations of money or gift cards be used for specific purposes – for example, a fellow bus rider may wish to designate that the donation be used to purchase bus passes for clients – and any amount is appreciated.

FIT “is not a handout organization,” Blumen added. “Our clients really work hard to turn their lives around.”

(For more information, call 367-4348 or visit www.lasvegasfit.org)

SUPPORTING EDUCATION

The Public Education Foundation was founded 21 years ago to support teachers and students in the Clark County School District, said Judi Steele, the organization’s president. “We are independent and nonprofit, and the mission is to improve public education in Clark County.”

Toward that end, the foundation works to enable teachers and administrators to, for example, have access to instructional supplies and implement new teaching strategies in the classroom.

For Christmas, the foundation would “like very much either a van or an old bus or a trailer” that could be used to distribute supplies to schools, Steele said.

“We have a teachers’ exchange. We give our gently used surplus equipment … to teachers so they can help teachers in the classroom,” she said. “We have no way of moving that into the community, so we’d love to have a van or an old bus or something that we could transform into a mobile unit, like the old-fashioned Bookmobiles.”

Donations of paper and office supplies always are welcome, Steele added, as are “gently used” books and instructional materials that could be distributed to teachers for use in the classroom. In the same vein, gently used or new musical instruments would be welcomed.

Of course, monetary donations always are welcome, and donors also might consider contributing to the foundation’s scholarship program, perhaps in the name of a loved one, for the holidays.

“We’ve given out approximately $700,000 worth of scholarships every year to local students from Southern Nevada to go on to higher education,” Steele said, “and we’ve given out over $7 million in scholarships over the past 20 years.”

(To learn more, call 799-1042 or visit www.thepef.org)

FINDING DOGS FOREVER HOMES

Pet lovers can play Santa to several animal welfare groups across the valley, including animal rescue organizations devoted to specific breeds of dogs.

Among the latter is Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Nevada, which was created in 2003 with the mission of re-homing golden retrievers, said Debbie Pietro, one of its founders.

Pietro said the agency has 150 to 170 animals that need permanent homes and which, in the meantime, largely are being cared for by foster owners.

Pietro said one of her Christmas wishes is that the organization could find more foster homes. The organization has about 15 to 20 foster owners, she said, and while foster owners provide dogs with “food and love,” the organization covers any medical bills that might arise.

Also on Pietro’s Christmas list: “We need more forever homes,” she said, particularly for older dogs.

The organization also could use volunteers who can help out in several jobs, including transporting animals, conducting pre-adoption home visits and helping out at weekly adoption events.

Donations of cash also are appreciated, Pietro said.

Right now, during the Christmas season, volunteers are needed to participate in the organization’s gift-wrapping fundraiser. Through Dec. 24, volunteers will be wrapping gifts at stores at South Rampart and West Charleston boulevards – including GAP, Pottery Barn and Barnes & Noble – and proceeds will go primarily toward dogs’ medical bills.

The organization needs gift wrappers who can work daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. To volunteer, email grrsnvolunteers@aol.com or call 598-4653 .

For more information about volunteering, fostering a dog or adopting a dog, visit the group’s website (www.grrsn.org).

(Additional information is available at 598-4653.)

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.

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