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Plenty of places to volunteer this holiday season
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Thanksgiving is next week, which heralds the start of the traditional holiday season and prompts many to want to serve their fellow man by volunteering. But where to start, you may ask? According to the Volunteer Center of United Way in Modesto, there are plenty of places to plug in.

Here are their top suggestions for the Ceres area in particular:

1). Help is being sought to help serve the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center in South Modesto on Friday, Nov. 19. The event, co-sponsored by the Red Shield and Ceres Rotary, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Volunteers, ages 14 years and older, are needed to help serve dinner and clean up between 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monetary donations, nonperishable/canned foods and rolls are needed and appreciated.

The Salvation Army Red Shield Center is a Christian-based community center for people of all ages whose purpose is to provide positive character building activities by offering educational, recreational, social, and spiritual programs.

Anyone who wants to volunteer may call the Volunteer Center at 524-1307.

2). Why not lend a hand to the United Samaritans Foundation which is distributing Thanksgiving Day dinners to the needy in Ceres, Hughson, Keyes, Modesto, and Turlock on Thursday, Nov. 25. Volunteers are needed to assist with dinner preparation, distribute meals from the United Samaritans lunch trucks, and clean up after distribution at the Hughson, Modesto, and Turlock sites. Volunteer shifts are available between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. depending upon site.

Monetary donations and traditional holiday food items (turkey rolls, boneless turkey roasts, mashed potatoes, canned green beans, and precooked items such as rolls and pumpkin pies) are needed to help provide the 2,000 meals this Thanksgiving.

The United Samaritans Foundation Daily Bread Ministries provides hot meals or bag lunches to the needy weekdays from its kitchens in Modesto, Hughson, and Turlock.

3). Ever wanted to be a Salvation Army bell ringer? Now's your chance. The Christmas kettle campaign needs friendly, enthusiastic individuals to help raise funds for the Salvation Army Christmas and Senior Basket programs and January relief efforts. Individuals, families, and groups are invited to be a part of this traditional holiday campaign by staffing a Christmas Kettle and ringing the bell to solicit donations from holiday shoppers outside of businesses throughout Ceres, Modesto, and Turlock. Agency staff will set up, provide training, and pick up kettle and donations after shift. Flexible day and evening shifts are available from Nov. 19 through Dec. 24.

4). Dive into the Day of Hope, a charity Thanksgiving Food Pack Out and Distribution, a program of the Associated Students Inc. of CSU, Stanislaus. Give hope and encouragement by delivering baskets of food and turkeys to families for Thanksgiving, on Saturday, Nov. 20 and Sunday, Nov. 21. Volunteers are needed to sort non-perishable foods and pack into Thanksgiving boxes on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Sunday distribution to needy families in the Turlock area from 12 to 5 p.m. Volunteers should be at least 10 years of age with a parent and 14 years if volunteering on their own. Flexible shifts are available on both days and families are encouraged to participate.

Monetary donations and nonperishable/canned foods are welcome and appreciated.

5). Sort and bag toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots Program. Help needy children experience the joy of Christmas. Volunteers, ages 16 years and up, are needed to sort and bag donated toys now through Dec. 21 during daytime hours as arranged with organization. Flexible shifts are available. Volunteers will also be needed to distribute the toys to families and agencies Dec. 17-21.

Also, donations of new toys, games, sports equipment, etc. for children and especially teens, are needed and appreciated. The goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.

6). Support the Alzheimer's Affiliates of Stanislaus County in its 23rd annual Holiday Poinsettia Sale. You can help by buying florist quality poinsettias in a 6-inch foil covered pot for just $12 for pick up at the agency's office and $15 with delivery.

Volunteers, ages 18 and older, are needed Dec. 1-15 to deliver poinsettias to businesses and private residences throughout the county. Volunteer drivers must have their own vehicle, current California Driver's License, and insurance.

Alzheimer's Affiliates of Stanislaus County provides supportive services and educational programs to Alzheimer's victims and their family members and caregivers in the community.

7). Use your bi-lingual Spanish skills to help adults gain their G.E.D. Volunteers, age 16 years are older, are needed to help the Spanish G.E.D. instructor administer tests, check homework, correct assignments and work with students as needed. Bi-lingual Spanish skills are a plus, but not required. The G.E.D. class is held Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Rio Altura Elementary School in Riverbank.

Stanislaus Literacy Center is a non-profit corporation which teaches adults and their families basic education skills, helps parents become their child's first and best teachers, and prepares a more productive workforce.

To volunteer for any of the services, contact the Volunteer Center, 422 McHenry Ave., Modesto, (209) 524-1307. The center has a website at