Make Christmas a day of giving back to the community

It's so touching, that scene where George Bailey is surrounded by friends and family. Even in black and white, we can see the joy radiating in the classic ending scene of "It's a Wonderful Life."

As the ultimate Christmas movie, this beloved film reminds viewers that this truly is the season of giving. And yet, the heart of the holiday always seems to slip away in the craze of shopping, cooking and preparations.

Even though Christmas has almost come and gone, it's not too late to garner the reason for the season. Throughout the metro area, there are several Christmas Day volunteering opportunities for both individuals and families.

For the thousands of homeless men, women and children of metro Atlanta, hunger doesn't end just because it's a holiday. Just as they do on Thanksgiving and other major holidays, volunteers from the Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless group will be out in force on Christmas.

Hosea, which will take over Turner Field with tables of food, needs volunteers to dish out dinner and help with the massive cleanup after the food has been cleared away. Volunteers are also need on Tuesday at the Hosea headquarters, located on Donnelly Avenue in Atlanta, to regroup and reorganize following the big meal. For information or to register, call 404-755-3353 or visit www.hoseafeedthehungry.com.

Dogs need to be walked. Cats need to be fed. With nearly 200 canines and felines at the center, PAWS, a no-kill animal adoption center in Atlanta, is in need of volunteers on Christmas morning.

Volunteers should wear old clothes, as the work may not be pretty: cleaning cages, walking dogs and feeding the animals. While training isn't needed, volunteers need to be at least 10 years old. Parental or guardian supervision is required for those under 18 years old. PAWS Atlanta is located at 5287 Covington Highway in Decatur. For information, call PAWS at 770-593-1155 or visit www.pawsatlanta.org.

Even after the tree has come down and the ornaments are put away until next year, that doesn't have to spell the end of the giving spirit. Opportunities to volunteer in the community are numerous throughout all seasons.

Searching the Atlanta area for services opportunities? Point your browser no further than Hands on Atlanta. An umbrella association for the nationwide Hands On Association, the Web site, www.handsonatlanta.org, has teamed with more than 400 metro nonprofit groups to compile an online database for potential volunteers.

Looking to help the homeless? Hands On Atlanta can help. Hoping to find information on becoming a leader in the community? Hands on Atlanta has courses for just that. Want to give back to a local school or park? Sure, they have that covered, too. Now 37,000 members strong, the organization has become a vital resource for those with hands itching to give back.

Volunteer Match, an online volunteering network, also aims to help individuals and groups pair with organizations in an array of interests, with a national database of more than 44,000 charities. Potential volunteers can search categories by area, age requirements or interests, including everything from human rights to technology. For more information, visit www.volunteermatch.org.

Local businesses

give back

Local businesses find many ways to give back to the community during the holiday season. Here are a few of the efforts we've heard about this year:

•Bugaboo Creek Steak House hosted a lunch for children from the Gwinnett Children's Shelter on Dec. 17. The goal of the lunch was to spread holiday cheer to underprivileged children. The Gwinnett Children's Shelter is a private, nonprofit agency that serves between 300 to 500 children and their families every year. Bugaboo Creek Steak House is located at 3505 Satellite Blvd., Duluth. Call 404-604-2605.

•Atlantic Station, Lite 94.9 FM, and AirTran brought in more than $250,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation during a 36-hour Call-a-Thon Dec. 15 and 16. For more information, visit www.wish.org.

•Bowen Family Homes purchased 150 toys for underpriviledged children in Gwinnett County. Nearly 60 employees shopped at Toys 'R Us on Nov. 30 for gifts for 15 children at the Gwinnett Children's Shelter. For information, visit www.bowenfamilyhomes.com.

•Employees of PointClear, a sales opportunity management corporation in Norcross, collected more than 700 canned goods and other items during the company's third annual holiday food drive. The items and additional funds collected at PointClear were delivered to the Norcross Cooperative Ministry for distribution as part of its food pantry program.

Bank nets $1,700 for Relay for Life

Gwinnett Federal Credit Union raised $1,736 for Relay for Life through its annual basket raffle. Employees and members raise money year-round with various fund raising events, culminating in Gwinnett County's Relay for Life. Since 2001, Gwinnett FCU has raised $54,000 and donated 2,000 employee volunteer hours to Relay for Life. Call 770-963-5679 or visit www.gwinnettfcu.org.

Toyota tourney raises $81K for nonprofit group

The Toyota Mall of Georgia Golf Tournament raised $81,000 for Deliver the Dream, a nonprofit group serving Atlanta-area families facing serious illness or crisis. Proceeds from the fourth annual charity golf tournament will provide for the Deliver the Dream retreat weekends across the Southeast and will serve Atlanta-area family participants.