November 29, 2006

HEARTS AND HANDS FOR SERVICE

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"-The GrinchYou may have heard about the Boise woman who recently gained national attention for her organization, Chefs to the Rescue, that distributes food to the hungry in the Treasure Valley. Formerly homeless and a mother of five, Sue Cobley took a difficult personal situation and turned it into a blessing for others in the same plight. Hunger in Idaho is not confined to larger communities: the seasonal soup kitchen in Salmon, the Challah Community Kitchen, serves an average of 50 meals every Saturday. Salmon resident Deborah Unruh felt called to meet a challenge facing many individuals and families in this and other small towns with natural resource-based economiesâ??seasonal employment makes for lean winter months. Service comes in a different flavor for Coeur dâ??Alene residents Ron and Marian Catlin, who volunteer as â??Goodwill Ambassadorsâ?? for the Coeur dâ??Alene Police Department. They visit businesses, fostering positive relations between owners and patrons and the police department. All these Idahoans reach out their hands and hearts in service. They are not aloneâ??Idaho communities boast countless stories of service--people helping the homeless, the abused, children, the disadvantaged, the indigent, the elderly and the community as a whole. And lest we forget those whose service includes dodging enemy fire instead of holiday shoppers and oppressive desert heat instead of a warm fire on a chilly evening, our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen elevate service to a life-threatening level. For these brave men and women, our peaceful, snowy 2006 Christmas season will be a gritty world of determination, bravery, fatigue and, at times, fear and pain. Our law enforcement officers and firefighters also risk their lives every day in our communities, serving often times in as much danger as our military overseas. It doesnâ??t take a full bank account, multiple community connections or even large blocks of free time to make a difference. In fact, many people who extend themselves do so on limited budgets of time and money. Itâ??s remarkably easy to reach out to others this holiday season. From spending a few hours at your local soup kitchen, food bank or shelter to organizing a community drive to help people in need, opportunities for service abound. Just before Thanksgiving, students and teachers at Hawthorne Middle School in Pocatello, and Weiser School District employees both gathered items to send to troops in Iraq--something that other schools and communities in Idaho have also done over the past three years. Toys for Tots and The Salvation Army bell ringers are familiar holiday sights; helping them is very simple. Service can even take the form of recycling and donating used clothing, computers, furniture and appliances. Goodwill, The Salvation Army and other national and local organizations always need donations of quality items families no longer use. You can also support our troops this holiday season. In November 2004, the Department of Defense launched â??America Supports You,â?? designed to recognize and facilitate citizen support for our service members and their families. Local, state and national groups register to be listed at the â??America Supports Youâ?? website: www.americasupportsyou.mil. Military members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have access to the Internet as their mission allows, so take a few minutes and send a note to them at the â??Thank the Troopsâ?? section of the website. Such messages can lift spirits and give encouragement; it only takes a moment. Whether you are in uniform or not, make this season a season of service. You stand to gain as much or more than those you will be helping.