Smile Politely

Seven more ways to be a better community member this holiday season

The height of our intense holiday season (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s) is here. With it, we wanted to revisit our article from this time last year that offered eight ways to be a better community member

Last year, we noted that “there’s no shame in selfishness being a motivator to do good and help others,” and we stand by it. Whatever your motivation, if you can help make Champaign-Urbana a better place for those less fortunate than yourself by donating time or money, thank you. 

As always, this is not an exhaustive list; please feel free to revisit our 2021 article, or our Ask Politely article from 2020, though some of that information may be outdated. We have addressed many of these topics in more depth in the 30+ Editorial Board articles we’ve published this year. If you’re in need of a deeper dive or a refresher on the complexity of the topic, have a look at these seven ways to be a better community member this holiday season.

Get yourself and your kids vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 and the flu

The vaccines are safe and effective. COVID, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are already causing problems for people all over the country. Please take care of yourself and others — the pandemic is not over. 

Flu and COVID vaccines are available at Champaign Urbana Public Health District, through your medical providers, and at pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens. You can find a location and make an appointment here

Graphic of the United States, with each state's respiratory illness activity indicated by a different color based on severity. Image from CDC's FluView interactive.

Image from the CDC’s website.

Shovel your walk / Clean the storm drains

Despite these early summer temps in November, winter will indeed bring snow and ice. It is so important that sidewalks are cleared in bad weather. You could even volunteer to tend to sidewalks others cannot. Remember, it’s not just retirees and dog walkers who use the sidewalks. Many kids use them to get to school safely, and it’s a huge accessibility issue for people who use wheelchairs.  

Flooding from heavy rain is a major problem, and keeping the drains clear helps mitigate street flooding and property damage. Until the terrible weather arrives, do a quick check of your street’s storm drains. They are likely clogged with leaves. If you have a rake and the physical ability, keep them clear of debris. 

Contact elected officials about what is important to you (unless it’s voter fraud, because that’s obviously never a thing)

It’s critical that you let your elected reps at all levels know that any agenda of hate will not be tolerated. Thankfully, our senators in Illinois are not in the business of stripping rights from women. Remind them of where you stand and that you are grateful they continue to represent your interests in Washington. 

Most municipal seats are up next year, so now is the time to remind the current elected officials where you stand concerning priorities in C-U. These could include things like: 

Help feed and clothe people in the community

It’s been a rough few years, and things are not getting any better for many. Corporate greed continues to drive inflation; energy costs are going up exponentially for everyone. There isn’t much we can do about that locally, and with the increased cost of groceries, the holidays may look different. 

Still, here’s what you can do. 

You can donate $25 (or more) to the McKinley Church & Foundation’s Thanksgiving basket partnership with Garden Hills elementary school. The school will provide Thanksgiving packages to food-insecure families in C-U. Per the website, “$25 will provide a turkey and $55 will provide an entire basket for one family.”

Daily Bread Soup Kitchen is entirely volunteer-run and feeds people in C-U daily. Consider making a financial donation or volunteering

Jubilee Cafe has been feeding more people since the start of the pandemic; you can learn more about donation and volunteer opportunities on its Facebook page and website

Do you have gently used warm clothes? Cunningham Township is hosting its annual Enoch Miller Sr. warm winter gear donation drive. They are looking for gently used (or new) coats, jackets, mittens, gloves, and hats. Donations will be accepted for Cunningham Township at 205 W Green Street in Urbana. 

Donate blood

It seems that there is an ongoing shortage of blood donations nationwide. We wrote about it earlier this year

You are probably able to donate blood, and if you can, please do. You can sign up to donate locally at ImpactLife; appointments are required. 

Mentor kids

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois is a well-established program that pairs low-income, underprivileged youth from single-parent families in our community with mentors called “Bigs.” 

Volunteering to be a Big is a significant time commitment, so another great option is volunteering with C-U One-to-One. C-U One-to-One connects one mentor with a student in 3rd through 7th grade. It’s only an hour a week and takes place in the student’s school. This means you don’t need to stress about hosting a child at your home or finding a suitable place to meet. You just need the willingness to show up for a kid who might need a reliable adult presence in their life. 

White hands hold a paper that reads

Photo from the C-U One-to-One Facebook page.

Support vulnerable and historically excluded people

Rights for every person in this country are not guaranteed. Those who are members of historically excluded and/or marginalized communities are the most vulnerable. Allyship is not good enough. If striving for a diverse, inclusive, and equitable society is vital to you, you must put meaningful actions behind your words. 

Planned Parenthood is an excellent place to start if you want to support women’s health and wellness. As the only abortion provider in Champaign-Urbana, the Planned Parenthood of East Central Illinois must remain an option for women in the area. In good news, the Champaign clinic is now able to offer surgical abortions. Remember: Planned Parenthood provides healthcare to women, men, non-binary, and trans people.

The UP Center is doing great work to support LGBTQ+ people in our area, offering all sorts of resources: community events (Pride Fest, Queer Prom), support groups, education and training, a food pantry, and a community of people who care. Consider becoming a sponsor (making a donation), volunteering, or joining the board

Additionally, there are many Black communities in C-U, and you can support them by shopping Black-owned businesses and dining at Black-owned restaurants. Consider donating time or money to the NAACP of Champaign County. Show up to city council and school board meetings to amplify the voices of Black constituents. Don’t assume you know what Black residents or parents want. Talk to your Black neighbors. Don’t have any? Look into the history of redlining and current zoning practices to understand why that is. 

Support new-to-C-U immigrants by volunteering with the New American Welcome Center or apply for one of the open positions. If you have the ability to speak other languages, offer up your time and expertise through one of the many programs NAWC oversees. 

There’s a lot you can do to contribute to your community this holiday season. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Trude Namara, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.

Top images from the Champaign Urbana Public Health District Facebook page. 

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