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Giving back at the Holidays

Growing up on a farm, late fall was always a time of mixed emotions for me. Shorter days and colder weather kept us all indoors more but at least we could look ahead to the holidays with great anticipation.

Charlotte Nash, Chairman Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

As I walked into Beaver Ridge Elementary in early October, the sights and sounds brought back many pleasant memories of my childhood. I was there to read to a kindergarten class as part of an international Read for the Record event to encourage early literacy. We joined millions of other students all over the world that day – all reading “Otis” by New York Times best-selling author Loren Long. It was a good read.

It was also a simple and easy thing to do – no preparation required. But the kids and I had a wonderful time together. It was a vivid reminder of how many people right here in Gwinnett County crave that kind of attention. 

Everyone seems to get very busy as the holidays approach. We get all wrapped up in our own lives trying to make life better for our families and loved ones. Sometimes it takes the eager faces of young children to remind us that giving gifts of our time and attention is far more satisfying and rewarding than any gift we can buy.

Of course, giving away things we no longer need is another way to clear out our inside spaces as we start hunkering down for the winter ahead. If you’ve got any ratty old sneakers cluttering up your hearth and home, you can bring them to America Recycles Day to be recycled into surfaces for playgrounds and running tracks. It’s at Coolray Field on Saturday, November 23, from 9:00 am until noon. You can also recycle batteries, electronics, and tires at the free event.

Donating money or canned goods to a food bank is another easy way to help out the less fortunate among us. The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services – – is a great resource for finding agencies that help provide much-needed community services.

The County has set up an entire website – – to make it simple to find unmet needs and volunteer to help out on a one-time or an ongoing basis. We set a bold goal of a million volunteer hours by 2015. Our goal for 2013 is 725,000 hours and we reached 543,745 in August. With your help, we can do it.

Don’t let the increasing cold chill your willingness to help others, and please don’t just turn out the light and go to sleep when it gets dark outside. There are many folks who need a helping hand, and there’s no way local governments can provide all the services they need.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which reminded me of the kinds of things that happen when folks are stressed to their limits. In a place like Gwinnett, with its renowned and enviable quality of life, things should never get that bad for anyone. So consider helping others this season. I bet you’ll enjoy the holidays even more if you do!