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Commentary...Helping Others...Ellen London

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The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are known as the "Season of Giving". It's when donations increase, families volunteer their time and offices and organizations dedicate entire days to serving their neighbors in need.

Commentator Ellen London is the Interim President and CEO of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation.

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As we begin the frenzy of holiday cooking, shopping, decorating and socializing, it's encouraging to know that many of us also add "giving" to our to-do lists.

Doing so is glorious and heart-warming. Most of all, it's necessary.

Just ask the homeless, the elderly, the single mothers and sick children who benefit from the season's benevolence.

But I'd like to offer up another group in need of help: the young people in after-school and summer programs, who use out-of-school time programs not simply for recreation, but for safety, supervision, guidance and enrichment.

Far from being frills, after-school and summer programs are vital to helping young people grow into confident, well-rounded, healthy adults. During out-of-school hours, such programs can train our next leaders, provide conflict resolution and offer a bridge of safety between school and home.

As the unemployment rate worsens, such programs become even more necessary. And it becomes even more important that they have volunteers and kind donors who can help. Perhaps you would like to mentor a young person or coach a team. Maybe your company could spare a few hours a month and "adopt" an after-school program. Or maybe you have resources to share - monetary donations, sports equipment, paper goods or books.

Whatever you can give, the District's young people can use it. CentroNia, for example, could use hats, gloves and other cold-weather gear for young people in need.

Metroball, a program where eighth-graders hone their basketball and classwork and leadership skills, could use tutors as well as better equipment.

There are daily needs at the Vietnamese-American Community Service Center, Covenant House, Washington Tennis and Education Foundation and African Heritage Drummers and Dancers, an institution that has been serving the community for 53 years. And I could go on.

The reality is out of school time programs need you everyday. The funding and support given by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation to more than 150 community-based organizations helps more than 15,000 children and youth connect to meaningful experiences all year-round.

If businesses and individuals are looking for worthy organizations to assist, you can contact the Trust and we will connect you to our grantee organizations that work with young people in some of the most challenged neighborhoods in the nation's capital.

This is the time of year we give thanks for our families, our provisions and our many blessings. And it's wonderful when we can share our good tidings with others, so my holiday wish list contains two simple things this year: Let's remember the young people in crucial after-school programs. And let's make this "Season of Giving" last the whole year through.

I'm Ellen London.


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