There are many ways to help those less fortunate in Downtown Long Beach this holiday season and throughout the year. Local charitable organizations are a great place to start for those looking to help the community with financial contributions or donations of clothing, hygiene kits, toys, bath towels, and other essential items. Also keep in mind that donation of your time and skills is just as valuable. Whether you are a web page designer, gardener, accountant, or simply someone good at having a one-on-one conversation, your presence and abilities could be put to use for the benefit of folks in need.

For example, there are over 3,000 registered volunteers at the Long Beach Rescue Mission (LBRM), which has been helping people throughout Long Beach get back on their feet and become re-connected with the community since 1972. Its men’s and women’s shelters on Pacific Avenue house close to 200 people, providing programs designed to build self-esteem, restore mental and physical health, and provide direction toward independent living.

“In my experience, when someone ends up in a rescue mission, they feel in their heart that it’s the last stop on the block,” said Robert Probst, who has served as Executive Director of LBRM since 2013. “Lots of people have made bad choices and they’re trying to recover from them. Others may be suffering from mental issues. They can’t cope in a healthy way, and they end up here, where we offer them a variety of programs to help them get their lives together.”

The volunteers at LBRM help with all kinds of tasks: serving the over 900 meals the Mission provides every day, assisting with garden maintenance, or wrapping presents for the upcoming holiday toy giveaway. Professionals such as finance teachers and personal counselors also donate their time. “People who get tours of the Mission often come up with their own ideas of how to volunteer,” Probst said.

Another Long Beach non-profit, Care Closet LBC, goes into the field, delivering donations of gently used clothing to individuals experiencing homelessness in Downtown and beyond. “This month, we would really like to get lots of jacket donations,” said community advocate Duke Givens, who founded Care Closet LBC. “Besides helping keep people warm, we want to give them a self-esteem boost right where they are. Knowing they are thought of and cared for is huge for these folks; We can see it in their eyes.”

Please consider donating this season — whether it’s new or gently used items, cash donations, or your time — to the many local charitable organizations in and near Downtown. Homeless outreach experts say it takes an average of 22 separate contacts with a person experiencing homelesssness before they begin to trust enough to accept services that get them off the street. A simple act of generosity on your part may turn someone’s entire life around.

Here are a just few other organizations you may like to get involved with:

* The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services is accepting a variety of donation items, including the aforementioned hygiene kits, and is providing a variety of volunteer opportunities.

* Long Beach Forward seeks to increase the health of Long Beach communities of color in a variety of ways, and is accepting financial donations throughout the year.

* Foodbank of Southern California will appreciate your financial donations and welcome your volunteer time too.

* Christian Outreach in Action provides a wide variety of services to the homeless and needy in Downtown Long Beach. Donations and volunteer time are always accepted.

* The Long Beach Public Library Foundation offers a plethora of free literacy programs. Your donation will support education for all members of the community.

* human-I-T accepts donations of computers as well as financial contributions and volunteer time, enabling low-income individuals to gain access to internet technology.

*Long Beach Coffee and Tea, a veteran-owned business, will use 100% of your financial donation to help other veterans transition from military to civilian life. Now is the perfect time to contribute to their holiday toy drive as well.