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첥Ƶ’s Be An Angel campaign enters its 24th year: See how you can help

Bethlehem Area Public Library needs music and video production equipment, such as cameras, tripods, lights and microphones. (April Gamiz/첥Ƶ)
Bethlehem Area Public Library needs music and video production equipment, such as cameras, tripods, lights and microphones. (April Gamiz/첥Ƶ)
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Once again, it’s time to earn your wings by participating in 첥Ƶ’s .

Each year during the holiday season, we invite nonprofit organizations throughout the Lehigh Valley to send us wish lists of three items they need most to better serve their clients. We share their wishes and ask you to earn your angel wings by “shopping” for ways to help.

You’ll see the wishes are not so much about what people want as about what people need. The wishes provide hundreds of ways you can make a difference in the lives of others.

Irene Kraft
Irene Kraft

When I first started the Be an Angel campaign in 1999 and published a request for nonprofits to send us their wish lists, I had no idea how many agencies would respond. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from nearly 100 organizations that year. In the ensuing years, I learned of a couple hundred more agencies.

And although I’m an Allentown native and have lived in the Lehigh Valley most of my life, I must admit I had no idea so many agencies existed or that their needs were so great. Like many of you, I was living a pretty secure life. I had a healthy family, a home, a good job and a car to drive to work every day and taxi my sons to their extracurricular activities. What Be an Angel quickly taught me is that not everyone is that lucky. It truly opened my eyes to the needs in our community and to the problems people are dealing with every day.

What was an even bigger surprise that first year was the number of people who earned their wings by fulfilling wishes on the list. Some filled big wishes. Others filled small ones. But all were worthy of a pair of wings. These generous angels confirmed what I already knew: Lehigh Valley people are good people.

These angels also confirmed what I hoped was true — that many people wanted to help others, especially during the holiday season, but didn’t know how. Be an Angel shows them how. Sometimes “angels” actually thank us for publishing a list that tells them where their help is needed. I’ve told those people what is still true today: They are the ones to be thanked. They are the heroes with wings — the angels that make this campaign work in numbers I never dreamed possible.

To date, Be an Angel has raised more than $5.7 million in goods and services for organizations in the Lehigh Valley that address a wide range of needs — not only for people but even for animals.

Last year alone, donations yielded more than $401,000 worth of goods and services, up nearly $100,000 from the previous year. And while the numbers are impressive, it’s knowing what those donations are doing that is incredibly heartwarming.

Each year through their generosity, angels have fed, clothed and sheltered the homeless, some of whom live in encampments. They’ve brought smiles to the faces of sick children. They’ve supported organizations that provide medical care to the sick and comfort to the dying. They’ve helped schools to obtain the tools they need to better educate. They’ve kept at-risk children off the streets and in programs that will shape their futures. They’ve provided food, medical care, bedding and other basic items to animals in shelters. And they’ve supported the visual, musical and performing arts programs that enrich our lives.

Be an Angel provides hundreds of ways for you to help those who are less fortunate. This year, 184 nonprofits have submitted wish lists. As always, their wishes are as diverse as the services they provide. Some ask for inexpensive items, such as toiletries, socks, winter hats and scarves, art supplies, office supplies, books, small stuffed animals and toys.

Students at the Manito Life Center train for a benefit horse show Thursday at the Manito Equestrian Center in South Whitehall Township. ////// FEATURES - CHRIS KNIGHT / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL - Shot on 05/12/16
Manito Life Center in Allentown, which provides equine-assisted activities, therapeutic riding and nature-based programs for children and adults with special needs, is wishing for an ATV, a  Gator utility vehicle or a golf cart, as well as a wheelbarrow and garden hoses.

Others are hoping to receive more costly items, such as vehicles, computers and even buildings in which they can operate. Manito Life Center in Allentown, which provides equine-assisted activities, therapeutic riding and nature-based programs for children and adults with special needs, is wishing for an ATV, a  Gator utility vehicle or a golf cart, as well as a wheelbarrow and garden hoses.

Starting Over Animal Rescue in Schnecksville needs a building or land to house its animals, a computer and printer and money to help pay vet, food and gas bills. Animal Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley in Emmaus also is hoping for a building or warehouse, as well as gift cards for other needed items.

Many organizations ask for gift cards and monetary donations. If your busy lifestyle makes it tough for you to shop, they’ll do the shopping for you.

Sadly, the problem of homelessness here in our Valley never seems to disappear. On the wish list are several organizations that aid people living in encampments. They are asking for items essential to basic human existence, especially during cold winter months, such as tents, tarps, sleeping bags and blankets, and clothing — especially winter coats and socks. Among agencies serving them are Lehigh Conference of Churches and Parish Nursing of St. Luke’s, both in Allentown, and New Bethany in Bethlehem.

The Allentown Rescue Mission is among the nonprofits seeking the public's help in our latest Be An Angel list.
Allentown Rescue Mission, which rehabilitates homeless men, is asking for food and water and the most basic clothing, such as underwear and socks. (첥Ƶ photo)

Allentown Rescue Mission, which rehabilitates homeless men, is asking for food and water and the most basic clothing, such as underwear and socks. The need is so great that it doesn’t take long for donations to get into the hands of those who need them.

“Just about every day, another homeless man comes to our door with only a backpack and the clothes on his back,” said Stephanie Appel, our contact at Allentown Rescue Mission. “The first thing we do is get him cleaned up and into new clothing. … Be an Angel has been such a big help to us. People have been extremely generous.”

Another endless problem is one we all face — illness. At some point in our lives, many of us have known the demands of dealing with a diagnosis of diseases, such as cancer or heart disease, for ourselves or our loved ones. On the wish list you’ll find ways you can support health care organizations that serve those who are ill and their families.

The Brian D. Perrin St. Luke’s Hospice House in Bethlehem is asking for new women’s nightgowns (sizes medium or large), iPhone and Android phone chargers with a wall plug and men’s electric razors with replacement heads.

Pediatric Cancer Foundation of Lehigh Valley in Allentown, needs a new iPad to use at the organization’s events, as well as gift cards for groceries to help families put food on the table and gas in their cars so they can get to treatments.

Some agencies request items you might already have but no longer are using, such as your kids’ old bikes or musical instruments that are taking up space in your closets or garages.

Students wait to perform. The Community Music School held its end-of-the-year concert Sunday, June 5, 2022, at West Park in Allentown. Students of all ages performed classical and contemporary music to celebrate the start of summer, which officially arrives June 21.
Community Music School in Allentown is in need of new or gently used musical instruments for students who cannot afford them. Community Music School also needs 66-inch key or larger piano keyboards, as well as violins and acoustic or electric guitars. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)

Community Music School and Satori, both located in Allentown, are in need of new or gently used musical instruments for students who cannot afford them. Community Music School needs 66-inch key or larger piano keyboards, as well as violins and acoustic or electric guitars. Satori is asking for gently used band instruments.

Bethlehem Area Public Library needs music and video production equipment, such as cameras, tripods, lights and microphones. And Community Bike Works in Allentown will take bikes in any condition for its Earn a Bike programs, which helps at-risk children by teaching them how to earn a bike by learning to repair it.

Anyone who has ever needed the services of any of the organizations submitting wishes will agree that the people working at them already are angels. They earn their wings every day on the job. But sometimes they need help — the kind of help that isn’t in their budgets.

For these agencies, volunteers willing to share their time, skills and talents are the most valuable donation of all. Northampton County 4–H Center in Nazareth needs someone to provide stone and grading for its driveway and someone to replace or repair four drop-down doors on its outdoor kitchen.

Lehigh Valley Hospice in Allentown, which provides end-of-life care to people at home or in a facility, is hoping to find licensed hair stylists willing to go into people’s homes to cut hair. Also needed are baby monitors, as well as food and pet store gift cards for patients and their pets.

Miller-Keystone Blood Center in Bethlehem needs volunteers to donate blood and to assist with blood drives. And Sharecare Faith in Action in Bethlehem, which provides free caregiving assistance, needs volunteers to drive elderly or disabled people to grocery stores or medical appointments, certified therapy dogs to visit seniors and friendly individuals to visit homebound seniors.

Last year, now 12-year-old Claire Hardy of Lower Nazareth Township collected 7,164 books for Cops 'n' Kids Children's Literacy Program in Bethlehem. (Amy Hardy)
Last year, Claire Hardy of Lower Nazareth Township, collected 7,164 books for Cops ‘n’ Kids Children’s Literacy Program in Bethlehem.

As you look through the wishes, you will see it is not difficult to earn your wings by making one or more donations. It’s easy enough for even children to do. Last year, one of the most impressive donations came from Claire Hardy, from Lower Nazareth Township, who was 11 at the time. Claire held a book drive at Nazareth Area Intermediate School, where she collected 7,164 new and gently used books for Cops ‘n’ Kids Literacy Program in Bethlehem. And her generosity didn’t end there. Throughout the past year, she attended Cops ‘n’ Kids programs, where she helped distribute the books she collected.

Please consider playing a part in dealing with some of the problems in our community by “shopping” the Be an Angel wish list database at . You can search our database for specific agencies, or for agencies in particular categories. You also can search the list for agencies needing items you’d like to donate. For example, if you purchase a new TV and would like to donate your old one, type the word “TV” into the keyword category. You’ll call up all organizations that need televisions.

The campaign continues through Jan. 31. We ask that you make donations directly to the organizations and please tell them it’s a Be an Angel donation.

Hopefully, you’ll find many ways you can make a positive difference.

Irene Kraft is a freelance writer and a former Morning 첥Ƶ editor who started the Be an Angel campaign in 1999. 

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