How to give Nova Scotians in need that 'extra special feeling' this Christmas

With the holiday season fast approaching, the scramble to find gifts for everyone on your list can seem daunting.

But instead of giving a material gift, you might want to think about making a more meaningful gift in someone's name to one of the dozens of charities that support Nova Scotians right across the province.

"We're certainly seeing a huge increase in the number of people who are trying to do just that, give to a charity instead of give to each other at Christmastime," said Kathy McNab, who works with the Adsum House shelter for women and children in Halifax.

She said she's seen an uptick in the number of people, especially young families, trying to bring their kids up with the notion that helping people in the community is more valuable than material items.

Feed Nova Scotia is another organization that helps those in need, supporting 141 different charities from one end of the province to the other.


"If you are thinking of making some kind of gift, you definitely cannot go wrong with a gift to Feed Nova Scotia," said Karen Theriault, director of development and communications with Feed Nova Scotia.

"And you know people want to feel that extra special feeling that comes from gathering together with friends and family and being able to put a special meal on the table [at Christmas]. It means more than just the food itself. It's about the memories and moments that are created."

There are dozens of organizations in communities across the province that would appreciate some extra help this Christmas.

Here's a list of a few organizations across the province and their Christmas wish lists:

Adsum House — Halifax area

Adsum House works predominantly with woman and children experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Halifax area, offering a variety of services and support. The organizations houses as many as 90 people per day and more than 300 people per year.

Of most urgent need on Adsum House's Christmas wish list this year are new women's pyjamas in all sizes, extra small through to 3X.

Also, grocery gift cards in any denomination would also be appreciated.

"But there's something on that list basically in every price range, you know, from shampoo, toothpaste, through to things like pyjamas and housecoats," said McNab.

New items can be dropped off at the Christmas collection location at 3671B Dutch Village Rd., Monday to Friday. McNab said it's best to call her ahead of time at 902-266-2650 to make sure someone is there to receive the items.

Feed Nova Scotia — across N.S.

Feed Nova Scotia supports dozens of charities across the province.

The organization has a number of programs this Christmas, including Hearts for Christmas, where people can sponsor a family with children to ensure there's something under the tree and food on the table.

Feed Nova Scotia also sells A Case of Compassion, where people can buy a case of wine and 25 per cent of the funds raised go to the organization.

As well, the annual turkey drive last year bought 4,311 turkeys for Nova Scotians in need. A $25 gift buys one turkey.

Theriault said food insecurity and poverty are year-round problems for many Nova Scotians. Donations are always welcome. If people can't afford to donate, Feed Nova Scotia is always looking for volunteers.


Shelter Nova Scotia — Halifax area

Shelter Nova Scotia operates six facilities in the Halifax Regional Municipality, providing a warm place to sleep for about 134 people each night.

Among the items most needed on the organization's holiday wish list are new pyjamas in all sizes for both men and women, various gift cards, underwear and socks.

A full list of items can be found here.

Donated items can be dropped off at Metro Turning Point Shelter on Barrington Street, seven days a week between noon and 8 p.m. Barry House on Gottingen Street will also accept items seven days a week from noon until 8 p.m.

If you'd like to donate on behalf of a loved one this Christmas, you can do so here and receive an e-card for printing.

Monetary donations can be made online.

Dave Laughlin/CBC
Dave Laughlin/CBC

Phoenix Youth Programs — Halifax area

Phoenix is a non-profit organization that supports youth between the ages of 11 and 24.

For its Christmas wish list, the organization is looking for:

  • New socks and underwear.

  • Bus tickets.

  • Cold and wet-weather clothing and accessories.

  • Toiletries and other personal care products.

  • Gift certificates, especially for groceries, coffee shops, movie passes and prepaid phone cards.

  • Items for children under five, including diapers, clothing, wet wipes, baby food and new unwrapped toys.

  • Art and stationary items.

  • Household items such as linens, towels, cleaning supplies and kitchen wares.

All items can be dropped off at the Phoenix Centre for Youth, located at 6035 Coburg Rd. It's open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The organization asks that items be dropped off before noon on Dec. 13.

Here are other ways to donate.

Shelter Nova Scotia
Shelter Nova Scotia

The Lotus Centre — Truro

The Lotus Centre caters mostly to helping women and girls in need, but "we don't turn anyone away," said Michaela MacLachlan, the centre's executive director.

On the organizations wish list this year are grocery store gift cards in small denominations and new women's underwear. MacLachlan said all sizes are needed, but said they rarely receive plus-size donations.

"We get a lot of donations of gently used clothing, but we don't get new undergarments. So, that is something that I think is very important for people to have," she said.

Donations can be dropped off at the centre, located at 67 Dominion St. in Truro. There is someone available to receive donated items Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For other ways to donate, visit their website.

Harbour House — Bridgewater

Bridgewater's Harbour House is a 15-bed emergency shelter for women and female-identified victims of domestic violence and their children, said executive director Jennifer Gagnon. The organization provides support and outreach services across Lunenburg and Queens counties.

Gagnon said the centre serves over 1,000 people per year.

"It is a big job," she said.

She said one of the best ways to help clients in her organization is to provide gift cards.

"Even gift cards for things like Cineplex are great because sometimes moms haven't had the chance to get out with their kids and go to movies and it allows her the autonomy to be able to make a decision about what she wants to do," said Gagnon.

"So gift cards are always a really big thing that we find very empowering to the women who come to the shelter just because it gives them the choice."

The centre doesn't have a lot of storage space for used items, but other appreciated items are toiletries and unscented body products.

Gagnon asks that anyone who wants to donate items call the centre ahead of time at 902-543-3999 to make sure someone is available to receive the items.

Anusorn Abthaisong/ Shutterstock
Anusorn Abthaisong/ Shutterstock

Supportive Housing Youth Focus Team (SHYFT) — Yarmouth

SHYFT is a non-profit organization that provides support to at-risk and homeless youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby areas.

The organization's assistant executive director, Cheyenne Burke, said they're looking for a number of items ahead of the holiday season:

  • New male and female undergarments (socks, underwear and bras in all sizes).

  • Hygiene products and towels.

  • Art supplies, board games and cards.

  • Earbuds and phone chargers.

  • Water bottles and travel mugs.

  • Non-perishable food (there's a food bank on Tuesdays for youth that don't live at the house).

Items can be dropped off at the shelter at any time — they're open 24 hours — by calling 1-855-781-3111. If you're not able to drop things off, it's possible to call the centre and they'll make arrangements to pick things up.

Monetary donations can also be made online through Canada Helps.

Every Women's Centre — Sydney

The Every Women's Centre in Sydney supports women in the community through a variety of programs.

During the holiday season, the centre runs an "adopt-a-family" program where local families in need of help around Christmas are paired with a sponsor.

If you're too busy to do the shopping yourself, Louise Smith-MacDonald, who works at the centre, said that's no problem. People can donate a sum of money and one of the volunteers will take care of the list.

"We will be looking after over 600 families for Christmas, so we can certainly use any kind of pyjamas for children, socks, any slippers, things like that that we can add to the parcels," she said.

"We've received wonderful support from the community and we've been doing this for 20 years and it's always worked really well."

For more information, call the centre at 902-567-1212.


Pictou County Roots for Youth — New Glasgow

Pictou County Roots for Youth operates out of a family home, providing emergency housing for people ages 16 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness. The organization also runs programs with youth to help them find employment and does anti-human trafficking work in the community as well, said Stacey Dlamini, the group's executive director.

The home helps about 30 youth every year end their homelessness, who stay an average of 10 weeks. She said the drop-in events cater to about 65 people.

Dlamini said of particular need are toiletries and winter clothing. But this time of year, it's nice to have small gifts for clients, such as gift cards for groceries of local coffee shops, earbuds and phone chargers.

Donated grocery gift cards allow the organization to buy fresh produce to serve those staying at the home. Also, gift cards to local coffee shops are appreciated.

Dlamini said the organization also operates the "12 days of Christmas," where they plan 12 activities throughout December.

"It's a sad time of year for a lot of people. And for young people who are not with their families, I think it's particularly a difficult time, so we try and fill our activities with, like, cheerful things," she said.

Donations are accepted pretty much anytime at 603 East River Rd. in New Glasgow. Online donations are also accepted through Canada Helps.

Viola's Place — New Glasgow

Viola's Place is an eight-bed emergency shelter in New Glasgow that helps people find a hot meal, clothing and a warm place to sleep.

Lisa Deyoung, shelter manager, said gift cards go a long way in helping clients find a warm place to wait during the day. The shelter is closed daily from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Gift cards to places that serve coffee in small denominations are welcome.

Donations of grocery gift cards also help the shelter purchase much-needed items like laundry detergent and other day-to-day items.

People can also donate online through their website.

If monetary donations are not possible, Deyoung said the shelter is always looking for volunteers.

"That would be a huge help for us because we're strictly volunteer-based," she said. "That's the the main thing that helps us keep our doors open every day."