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16 Ways to Give Back, For Real 

The best presents don’t always come wrapped in shiny paper and bows. Our annual Give Guide offers up a handful of hard-working causes that are worthy of a top spot on your gift list.

click to enlarge Alex’s Safe Harbour offers a place for people to grieve.
  • Alex’s Safe Harbour offers a place for people to grieve.
1 Pierre's Alley Cats

Since incorporating in 2007, PACS has been working to ease the suffering of Halifax's stray and feral cat populations. The Society established and cares for the feral cat colonies at the CFB Halifax dockyard using their trap-neuter-return model, as well as providing food, shelter and veterinary care for stray and feral felines. Supporters can sponsor their own chosen Dockyard Cat, or donate directly to PACS' efforts at pierresalleycats.org.

2 Laing House

A peer support organization, Laing House helps youth ages 16 to 30 who struggle with mental illness. Programs offered include creative arts workshops, employment help, healthy living, biweekly hospital visits, independent living support, community outreach and the Youth Speak program which shares stories of living with mental illness in schools and businesses. Donations of all kinds can be made through their website, lainghouse.org/how-to-help/donate.html.

3 Mobile Outreach Street Health

Providing health care to those who are insecurely housed and underserved, MOSH's mobile treatment van drives the city streets to offer services like blood work, STI testing, birth control, harm reduction supplies, vaccinations and help with medication. You can offer support through MOSH's sponsoring agency, the North End Community Health Centre. (Visit canadahelps.org for more.)

4 Out of the Cold

A volunteer-run emergency winter shelter, Out of the Cold is open to men, women, transgender individuals, couples, youth and pets on a first come, first served basis. It aims to offer a meal and a bed for those without other options. Donations can be offered online (outofthecoldhalifax.org/donate.php), but this time of the year volunteering to cook breakfasts, make sandwiches, drop off a hot meal, pick up laundry or even do a simple run to the grocery store can be a huge help. See a full list of needed supplies at outofthecoldhalifax.org/supplies.php.

5 Halifax Humanities 101

A totally free program, which promotes humanities education as a means of enriching those living in material poverty, Halifax Humanities is an eight-month program of study focusing on the great books of Western culture (all provided free of charge). Its volunteers hope to offer reflection and critical thinking to their pupils. Donations can be made through canadahelps.org/ CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s87699.

6 SuperNOVA

Dalhousie University's non-profit program is designed to provide kids with fun, educational experiences with science. Youth can learn about computers, engineering and technology at one of SuperNOVA's many workshops, including their weeklong All Girls camp. Over the years, the program has also reached out to deliver camps to First Nations and Inuit youth across the Atlantic provinces. SuperNOVA's programs are subsidized or offered at no cost, and so they're always on the lookout for both in kind and financial contributions via supernova.dal.ca/support_interest.

7 Alex's Safe Harbour

A dedicated place where grieving children and families can find compassionate support, Alex's Safe Harbour is named in memory of 10-year-old Alex, who died suddenly in December 2005. The group encourages the safe expression of grief and loss, offering open-ended programs which foster resiliency and well-being while being completely free of charge to any who need them. Donations can be made through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/dn/3279).

8 Halifax Refugee Clinic

Created to ensure the vulnerable people seeking safe haven in Nova Scotia would have support, the Refugee Clinic hosts education workshops, helps in refugee settlement and provides a host of legal services. The clinic is always looking for volunteers and donations, or you could stop by its second-hand clothing boutique, Section 96, to donate some clothes and pick up a few pieces for yourself. Until December 15 all items in store will be $5. (See more at halifaxrefugeeclinic.org.)

9 Ward 5

Located on Russell Street, Ward 5 Neighbourhood Centre has been providing community programs for over 30 years. On an average year, the centre will serve more than 18,000 hot meals to children and seniors. They also operate the St. Mark's Food Bank, which distributes food to thousands every year, and run numerous programs including both pre- and after-school children's care, seniors' dances and Christmas events. Donations can be made through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/dn/15459).

10 Chebucto Community Net

A federally registered charity, CCN is a volunteer-run initiative promoting universal access to internet services in Halifax. Aside from dial-up and high speed, the CCN promotes a text-based internet access for no charge which allows anyone with nearly any computer to have online and email access. It also help host dozens of websites for community groups and neighbourhood organizations. Volunteers and donations are always needed, and can be sent through PayPal, or to the Chebucto Community Net Room 006, in the Chase Building at Dalhousie.

11 Stepping Stone

A safe haven from the streets, Stepping Stone offers assistance and harm reduction help to local sex workers. That can include anything from court support, legal aid, mental health care, counselling or just a place for a hot shower and healthy snack. Monetary donations directly help Stepping Stone's programs and operational needs, and can be delivered through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=s57758), though the organization is always looking for donations of non-perishable food items, juice boxes, nutritional supplements, personal care items, socks, gloves and other clothing, as well as bedding and cleaning and first aid supplies.

12 Veith House

Originally the centuries-old Halifax Protestant Orphanage, Veith House works to meet the needs of children and families, primarily through programs for those living in poverty. Its diverse offerings include advocacy, counselling, trustee services and supervised access for non-custodial and extended families. Veith House also runs the Veith Street Gallery, which showcases artwork created through Creative Spirit East, a program that works with those challenged by disabilities. Donations can be made through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?charityID=s33861).

13 Books Beyond Bars

Twice monthly, Books Beyond Bars heads to the women's section of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility to improve access to books, writing and literature for incarcerated women. The organization is always in need of blank journals (no spiral ring binding), and accepts book donations on certain topics. Find a full list of what they need at robertsstreet.org/books-beyond-bars, or visit the Roberts Street Social Centre at the corner of Creigton and Falkland Streets to drop off your donations.

14 Atlantic Small Dog Rescue

Providing foster care for small dogs, ASDR works to place their rescue canines in permanent adoptive families, while promoting the humane treatment and well-being of all dogs. There's many ways you can help the organization out, aside from just cash. If you have a vehicle, transportation is a big need, or you could even transfer your Shoppers Drug Mart points or Canadian Tire money. Fill out an application and send it to foster@asdrescue.com to become a dog foster parent, and help provide a safe home for a pup with nowhere else to go for this Christmas.

15 Mission to Seafarers

With the recent crisis in the Philippines, the Mission is providing free international calls, Internet access, money transfer services and emotional support for Filipino sailors trying to make contact with family and friends. The Mission could use donations of hats, scarfs, gloves, socks, soap, playing cards and other small items (missiontoseafarershalifax.ca), and any funds donated to Filipino typhoon relief made by December 8 will be matched by the federal government.

16 Phoenix Youth Programs

The non-profit community organization offers several services for at-risk and homeless youth. Free of charge to anyone who reaches out, Phoenix Youth Shelter is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There's counselling, crisis intervention, health care, employment services and a unique SPIN program which allows youth to create and showcase their individual talents. Donate directly online (canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?charityID=s56549), or drop off some much appreciated gift cards, non-perishable food, clothing, personal care items or any of the many other needed things on Phoenix's wish list (phoenixyouth.ca/community/ support/wishlist).

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