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It’s said that in giving, we truly receive, and opportunities abound this season to teach this lesson to your children. This year, start a family tradition of giving to those less fortunate. Let your kids help you choose some of these charities around Greater Milwaukee to donate toys, food, time or money to, and your family's holiday will be even more special than usual.

Hear the bells ringing

The Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers signal the start of the holiday season as much as snow flurries and little white lights. All around Milwaukee, an army of volunteers collects loose change to fund this long-standing charity.

On Thursday, December 22, Milwaukee celebrities will be ringing bells for the Salvation Army at the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St. People can contribute in person or online at www.samilwaukee.org. New this year is the opportunity to compete in a silent auction to ring alongside a favorite celebrity at the event.

Tom Pipines of Fox 6 Sports is this year’s Red Kettle Chair, and past famous faces have included the mayor and fire chief, local news anchors, disc jockeys, and even the Bucks dancers competing to see who can raise the most money.

In addition to its numerous year-round services providing food, shelter, health care, and chaplain services to people in crisis, the Salvation Army’s Christmas Family Feast is the largest event of its kind: a free community meal on Christmas Day.

Last year, a thousand volunteers served more than 8,000 free meals at the Wisconsin Center on that one day. Help is needed December 23 to 25 for kitchen prep, set up, serving, and clean up. People can sign up online or by calling (414) 302-4300.

Visit Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane—more than 300 houses decorated with holiday lights and scenes—in West Allis has raised more than $1.6 million for the MACC Fund, Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, since 1984.

What started with a few neighbors has grown into an over-the-top holiday display with tree trunks wrapped up like candy canes, lights galore, and almost nightly appearances by Santa.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, visitors can either cruise the streets or park and explore the winter wonderland on foot. The lights are on 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 6-10 p.m. Saturday through Christmas.

The neighborhood is bordered by 96th St. on the west, 92nd St. on the east, Montana Ave. on the north, and Oklahoma Ave. on the south. The MACC Fund collection site it as 96th and W. Manitoba St.

Give to a food drive

Since 1974, Hunger Task Force has been a safety net for people in Milwaukee County who need food. It’s a clearinghouse that collects donations and distributes them to 80 local food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The Task Force also operates a 200-plus acre farm that grows more than 750,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables annually.

Its annual holiday food drive, Food for Families, runs through December 31. Many grocery stores, including Pick ‘n Save, El Rey, Outpost Natural Foods, Piggly Wiggly, Save-A-Lot, Sendik’s, and Sentry, throughout Milwaukee will have blue bins to collect non-perishable food donations.

School, church and civic groups can also run their own food drives to benefit Hunger Task Force. Groups can register online at www.hungertaskforce.org, and pick up collection boxes and posters from headquarters at 201 S. Hawley Ct. in Milwaukee. If two boxes are filled (that’s 500 pounds of food!), Hunger Task Force will send a truck for pickup.

“One can at a time, Food For Families collects half a million pounds of food for families and children in our local community each year,” says Hunger Task Force executive director Sherrie Tussler.

In addition to food and monetary donations, Hunger Task Force sells holiday cards to support its mission. This year’s designs feature either the Milwaukee Public Market, a country barn at sunset, or Warhol-inspired Cow-belles. Each pack of 20 cards and envelopes costs $16 and can be purchased online or by calling (414) 777-0483.

See crazy lights

Konzals’ Crazy Christmas Light Show, formerly called Cedarburg Lights, will collect donations this year for Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Visitors can drive through the light show at 4083 Highview Drive in Cedarburg, and watch the lights “dance” to Christmas music broadcast over the car radio on 101.7 FM. Donations will be accepted in a drop box anytime, and volunteers will be on hand to collect donations for Make-A-Wish on Fridays and Saturdays.

An opening ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. November 26, when guests will enjoy hot chocolate, candy canes, cookies and a visit from Santa. The lights run 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 4:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through January 1.

Run for a cause

December 3 is the fifth annual Santa Hustle 5K Run/Walk at Veterans Park at 1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive in Milwaukee.

The race begins at 8:30 a.m., when hundreds of Santas will pound the pavement, celebrating the holidays and raising funds for Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful (KGMB), a nonprofit that promotes sustainability and environmental educational. The group works with more than 4,000 school students each year and organizes neighborhood clean ups and tree plantings.

The race is also a collection site for the U.S. Marines Toys For Tots drive, and runners and spectators are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped gifts that will be distributed to local families in need.

Participants can sign up online at www.santahustle.com/milwaukee; registration costs $50 through November 25, and $52.50 November 26 through December 2. Each runner or walker will receive a Santa hat, beard and hoodie to wear during the race and a medal at the finish line.

Buy purrr-fect gifts

The Zoological Society of Milwaukee raises funds for the Milwaukee County Zoo animals, exhibits and research projects. During the holidays, the nonprofit group offers two limited-time opportunities to support its $7 million mission.

2016 marks the 25th year of holiday ornament sales. In honor of Strannik, the zoo’s newest Amur tiger, the Society chose a tiger designed by Wisconsin artist Andy Schumann. The pewter ornament costs $14, including shipping. The entire series can be purchased for $300, or past years’ ornaments, featuring everything from elephants to badgers to moose to fox, are also available as quantities allow.

Animal lovers can also choose to sponsor Fezzik, a Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, who arrived at the zoo this May.

For $35, sponsors receive a stuffed-animal sloth, 4-by-6-inch photo of Fezzik, a fact sheet on sloths, a certificate of sponsorship, an invitation to a behind-the-scenes event, their name on the donor board for the coming year, and a Sponsor an Animal decal. Orders placed by December 19 will be delivered in time for Christmas.

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