Often at this time of year, we ask readers to share their memories from past Thanksgivings, or things for which they are thankful. This year, we've decided to change it up a bit, and give readers ideas on how to give others a reason to be thankful.

It can be as simple as inviting elderly neighbors, or neighbors without family, to join your Thanksgiving or holiday celebration, or offering to drive them to doctors' appointments or the grocery store.

Or, you can volunteer to serve food at one of the Thanksgiving Day meals at local churches and community centers, or at a local soup kitchen.

The holidays may prove to be especially difficult this year with more and more people out of work and in need of assistance.

Muriel Slenker, executive director of Red Lion Area Community Services, is seeing growing numbers of people in need of help.

"Absolutely, it's increasing. We are picking up about 20 new clients a week. We may lose a few because they have lost their housing, but we are seeing an increasing number of people coming in for help." Slenker said. "We are also seeing an increase in the degree of need with people who come in not only for help from the food pantry but who need help in other areas, other resources."

Last year's very cold temperatures added to the need for help and that demand never really slowed, she said.

There are new faces, she said, people who have never had to ask for help but have no choice, she said.

"A lot of them were just holding on and have used up all of the resources they had and just have to come in," Slenker said.

While charities certainly need donations, many also depend on volunteers.

The suggestions here are just a few of the ways we can help people in our communities.

Keeping them warm

THE WARM PROGRAM at Red Lion Area Community Services collects blankets, coats, hats, mittens and scarves for needy families.

Camryn Leydig of Manchester Township struggles to lift a donation bag at a 2009 York Rescue Mission Christmas event. Camryn, her brother Jackson, and
Camryn Leydig of Manchester Township struggles to lift a donation bag at a 2009 York Rescue Mission Christmas event. Camryn, her brother Jackson, and parents Melissa and Dan volunteered for the event. (WEEKLY RECORD - FILE)

"Blankets are coming in, and I have scarves and hats, but this year I have a need for gloves, said RLACS Executive Director Muriel Slenker.

WARM COATS & WARM HEARTS DRIVE will accept new or gently used coats, along with other types of winter attire, including sweaters, jackets, sweatshirts, hats and gloves. Drop off items at Burlington Coat Factory, 2801 E. Market St., Springettsbury Township. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 17. If you bring your genetly worn coats to the customer service counter, you'll get 10 percent off your entire purchase. Call 757-5840 for details.

ST. JAMES COMMUNITY CLOTHES CLOSET at St. James Lutheran Church of Brogue, 2335 Cramer Road, Chanceford Township, sponsors a clothing giveaway 8:30 to 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month. Free clothing, shoes and coats, ranging in sizes from infant to adult extra-large. For details, call 927-9497.

NORTHEASTERN CLOTHING BANK, 4326 N. George St., Manchester, accepts new or gently used clothing and shoes. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays; 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Please make donations during store hours. No income restrictions apply. Everyone is welcome. For details, call 266-8460.

EAST BERLIN AREA COMMUNITY CENTER, 405 North Ave., East Berlin, offers the Thrift Shoppe with hours 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Clean and gently used items can be donated during shop hours. For details, call 259-8848.

FAMILY CLOTHES TREE, 4350 Bull Road, Dover Township, is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays. The Family Clothes Tree offers clothing cheap, plus linens, toys, shoes, purses, and more. For details, call 292-5764.

Keeping them fed

The area has a number of food banks where you can donate money or canned goods and nonperishable items, or offer your time as a volunteer.

THE FOOD PANTRY at Red Lion Area Community Services, 15 First Ave., Red Lion, 244-6934, has office hours 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to noon Fridays.

The food pantry at Red Lion Area Community Services averages 250 to 300 client based households and covers a wide area around Red Lion.

Donations are urgently needed for the food pantry, including hot chocolate, coffee, canned salmon, canned meats and stews, sloppy Joe sauces, pudding and Jell-o mixes, stuffing mixes, dessert and bread mixes.

Also needed are household paper goods and toiletries/hygiene products.

The pantry also seeks donations for its Bags of Blessings. Each bag contains the makings of a holiday meal, including a ham or turkey, stuffing and potatoes, yams, a cake or dessert mix and cranberry sauce. This program is available for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to provide families with holiday meals, she said.

Donations are accepted during morning office hours, or call to arrange an after-hours delivery. For details, call 244-6934 or visit at www.rlacspantry.net.

Volunteers are needed to pack grocery bags on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

SHREWSBURY SELF STORAGE is holding a "We CAN Feed the Hungry" food drive for the Pennsylvania Food Bank. Participating storage customers will be given a rent discount for donated items.

Donations of nonperishable food items may be dropped off at 20 Onion Blvd., Shrewsbury, during regular business hours through Thanksgiving.

For details, call 235-3033 or visit shrewsburyselfstorage.com.

YORK RESCUE MISSION'S ANNUAL FOOD DRIVE, in partnership with Lancaster's Water Street Ministries and the Lebanon Rescue Mission, hopes to collect 112 tons of food in the three-county coverage area, including 39 tons in York County.

The drive ends Dec. 18, and will be used to fill 1,500 Thanksgiving baskets for needy residents, and to stock the mission's depleted food warehouse used to serve three meals a day at the mission.

Items being accepted include any nonperishable food items including pastas, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables, soups and meats, oatmeal, grits and condiments such as mustard, ketchup, salt and pepper.

Donations may be dropped off at any Turkey Hill convenience store, M&T Bank or Northwest Savings Bank; or at the York Daily Record/Sunday News office, at 1891 Loucks Road, West Manchester Township.

Monetary donations also will be accepted and should be mailed to: York Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 1968, York, Pa. 17405-1968.

For details, call 845-7662 or visit yorkrescuemission.org.

ANGEL FOOD MINISTRIES is now accepting orders for its holiday boxes. These boxes will serve a family of 10 and cost $36. When you order one for yourself, consider ordering an extra to give to someone in their time of need.

Christmas Boxes may be ordered through Dec. 1. All orders will be delivered during regular November and December distributions. For details or to place an order, visit www.angelfoodministries.com.

MASON-DIXON COMMUNITY SERVICES needs volunteers to sort donations and help with the food locker. For details, call 846-4477 or visit www.unitedway-york.org.

SOUTH CENTRAL SENIOR COMMUNITY CENTER, 150 E. Main St., New Freedom, is in need of volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels once a month for about two hours. To volunteer, call the senior center at 235-6060.

RED LION AREA SENIOR CENTER is seeking volunteer drivers to get Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors in York Township. Meals are delivered 10:30 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Help is needed for all times. Drivers are compensated for mileage based on the current federal rate. For details, call Michelle at 244-7229.

SOUTHERN COMMUNITY SERVICES, a program of Penn-Mar, 44 S. Main St., Shrewsbury, is in need of volunteers to assist in monthly food distribution from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month; minimum age is 14. Packing of food bags is also done the day before, beginning at 9 a.m. To volunteer or for details, call 227-0333.

SUSQUEHANNA SENIOR CENTER, 2427 Craley Road, lower level of the Lower Windsor Township building, Lower Windsor Township, needs volunteer home-delivery meal drivers for the Wrightsville and Hallam areas. The center is offering $10 gift certificates to volunteers for delivering meals twice a month. If you have some extra time around 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays, give the center a call at 244-0340.

NORTHEASTERN SENIOR COMMUNITY CENTER, 131 Center St., Mount Wolf, needs adult volunteers to deliver meals to homebound residents Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays at lunchtime (about two hours). Scheduling and time commitment is flexible. Volunteers can also help in the kitchen. For details, call 266-1400.

HERITAGE SENIOR CENTER, 3700 Davidsburg Road, Dover Township, needs Meals on Wheels drivers and assistants to deliver prepared meals to homebound seniors weekdays (about two hours daily and time commitment is flexible as often or little as you want). To volunteer, call the center at 292-7471.

NEW HOPE MINISTRIES' DOVER CENTER, 1836 Industrial Court, Dover, needs volunteers to organize and pack supplies in its food pantry. The pantry is seeking donations of groceries. Visit nhm-pa.org/give.shtml and click on "grocery list" to see what's needed, or call 292-3441.

YORK COUNTY FOOD BANK, 254 W. Princess St., York, is a central serving hub that collects food from a variety of sources and then redistributes the food to its170-plus agencies and organizations. These organizations include other nonprofit groups, shelters, churches, senior centers, schools and various community centers. The food bank is seeking donations of canned vegetables and fruits; canned and boxed meals (i.e., soup chili, stew, macaroni-and-cheese); canned or dried beans and peas; pasta, rice and low-sugar cereals; peanut butter; baby formula and baby foods; holiday foods during the holiday season (cranberry sauce, dry stuffing mix, cake mixes & frosting, etc.); instant mixes such as potatoes, gravies and sauces; canned meats (i.e., tuna, chicken, salmon) that do not require refrigeration before opening; 100 percent fruit juice (canned, plastic or boxed); and soda. For details, call 846-6435 or visit www.yorkfoodbank.org.

For the kids

HOLIDAY ANGEL TREES are found in several local stores. Visitors to the stores can sign up to buy toys for children whose names are on the trees.

COMMUNITY TOY DRIVES such as the Marine Corps Toys for Tots, collect toys for needy children.

RED LION AREA COMMUNITY SERVICES collects toys and other items for its Christmas Wish List, which matches age-appropriate donations with the needs of a child or family. "We need people to sponsor a family or children on the wish list," RLACS Executive Director Muriel Slenker said.

TOYS FOR TOTS BASKET BINGO BENEFIT will be Dec. 18 at Alert Fire Company, 3118 N. George St., Manchester Township. Doors open at 12:30; pregame at 1:45 p.m. There will be 27 games of bingo; all baskets filled. Also, raffles, special games and door prizes. Cost is $12 in advance; $15 at the door. For tickets, call 309-3035, 235-3987 or 244-0396.

1ST CLASS STORAGE is accepting new, unwrapped donations for Toys-for-Tots at 4464 Lincoln Hwy., Suite 8, York. Donations may be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For details, call 840-7867.

BRING A NEW, UNWRAPPED TOY to Christmas Magic at Rocky Ridge Park on Nov. 26 and 27 and you get a buy one, get one free admission ticket.

FOR A LIST of Toys For Tots drop-off sites, visit york-pa.toysfortots.org and click on the "Toy Drop-Offs" tab.