Writer’s Block: Share the love with those in need

Years ago, I suffered a traumatic injury, was wheelchair-bound for months, confined to my home for weeks and unable to do the simplest tasks. The loving, compassionate arms of friends, family – even strangers – lifted me from the depths of despair, bringing meals, cleaning the house, washing clothes, offering rides to the doctor’s office, the drug store and my children’s activities, and sometimes just delivering an encouraging word.

Sue Austreng
Sue Austreng

Now, today is Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for expressing love to those near and dear to your heart … but how about devoting this day to sharing love with those in need?

Like so many did for me so many years ago, that love is easy to share and can be expressed by supporting local groups and non-profit organizations that serve the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the elderly, the hurt, the abused …

From Stepping Stone and HOPE 4 Youth, to ACBC food shelf, Mercy and Unity Hospitals, Mary T., Inc., and Free to Be, helping hands stretch out to help your neighbors in need. And they can use your help to make that help easier to give.

Stepping Stone Emergency Housing provides shelter to homeless adults and the month of February is designated for “Adult Hats and Mittens” on the shelter’s giving calendar. Email [email protected] or call 763-323-7006 for details on how to give those items.

At HOPE 4 Youth, a drop-in center for homeless youth located in Anoka’s Old Milk Factory, most-needed donations include bus passes, duffle bags, gas and dining gift cards, undergarments, personal hygiene items, peanut butter, bottled water and canned foods. For more information, visit Hope4YouthMN.org or call 763-323-2066.

At the food shelf, you can express your love for hungry neighbors by donating canned and boxed foods, personal hygiene products, seasonal clothing for all ages and genders, linens and bedding and children’s books and toys. For more information call 763-422-0046 or email [email protected].

To help at the hospitals, you could offer your time and energy volunteering in the medical facilities, you could knit caps for newborn babies, or you could send get well cards. To find out what you can do or how you can help, visit AllinaHealth.org or call 763-236-6000 (Mercy) or 763-236-5000 (Unity).

And here’s a way to boost the spirits of children suffering from life-threatening diseases. Just visit SendKidsTheWorld.com, read the children’s stories, then use a suggested message from the site or create a homemade postcard with your own sweet sentiments.

You can help victims of domestic abuse by volunteering at Alexandra House, working directly with clients as an advocate or childcare provider, or behind the scenes in the kitchen. Or you could donate items like non-perishable foods, personal care products, sheets, towels, baby monitors, diapers and wipes, socks and underwear, cell phones and more. For more information, visit AlexandraHouse.org or call 763-780-2332.

At Mary T., Inc., a community dedicated to providing assisted living, disability services, home health and hospice care, rental housing and senior living, the opportunities to help abound. To learn more visit MaryTInc.com or call 763-754-2505.

Free to Be assists individuals challenged with transportation issues by providing them with reliable vehicles. You can help by donating a vehicle, volunteering your mechanical services, cleaning cars, or just by attending the Feb. 20 “Get Your Taste On” fundraiser (formerly called the Taste of Blaine) at the National Sports Center. To learn more about how you can help Free to Be, visit FreeToBeInc.org or call 763-717-7755.

Of course, money is always a powerful expression of love and always in need to make these services available to your neighbors in need. Contact the organization of your choice to learn more about how you can lend financial support.

But hey, you could help others and lift spirits with spontaneous gestures, too. “Pay it forward” by opening the door for someone, smiling at the cashier in the grocery store and asking how her day is going, shoveling the neighbor’s walk and driveway, offering an elderly person a ride to the doctor’s office, to the grocery store, or to the hair salon, or bringing flowers or chocolates to a friend who’s feeling down.

Or what about “paying it backward.” Next time you’re in the drive through for fast food or coffee, how about picking up the tab for the person behind you? You’d be amazed what a lift your generosity can give.

There are so many ways to share the love, so how about sharing some love with those in need – not just on Valentine’s Day but every day.

Sue Austreng can be reached at [email protected]