It’s said that in giving, we truly receive, and the charitable spirit of the holidays is often extended to those in need. Plentiful community events, charitable groups, and businesses make it easy to extend a hand. Check out this list of opportunities to donate gifts, food, or money and make a difference in Lake Country.

Sponsor a family. The Christmas Clearing Council (CCC) of Waukesha County matches families in need with a sponsoring family that purchases their Christmas gifts. Last year, the CCC served 1,900 families -- including some 4,500 kids. The financial commitment for sponsors is roughly $60 per child. Families who are not sponsored are invited to a Toy Shop before Christmas where they can select presents for their kids. The last day to sponsor a family is Dec. 9, and the last day to donate toys for the Toy Shop is Dec. 15. Volunteers are also needed to staff the Toy Shop. More information is available online at www.christmasclearingcouncil.org or by calling (262) 896-3390.

Encourage literacy. Books & Co. in Oconomowoc runs a book drive for kids in need starting Thanksgiving weekend. Customers can pick a mitten from the tree inside the store with a child’s age and purchase an age-appropriate book at a 20 percent discount. Books & Co. will wrap the book and donate it to the Oconomowoc Food Pantry.

Benefit the Salvation Army. Bell ringers and the red kettles collecting money for the Salvation Army are synonymous with the holiday season. Donations help provide food, clothing and toys for families in need, families of prisoners and shut-ins at hospitals and nursing homes. The Salvation Army of Waukesha also feeds dinner to nearly 300 people three times a week. Between Dec. 3 and 14, Chris Lueth of American Family Insurance, 112 Main St., Pewaukee, will collect new toys and books for the Waukesha branch to distribute at Christmas.

Give to the Oconomowoc Food Pantry. Members of the Oconomowoc Rotary will collect cash donations and food to benefit the Oconomowoc Food Pantry during Oconomowoc’s annual Christmas parade on Dec. 3. The parade begins at 5 p.m. at Fowler Park and continues west through downtown and south on Main Street to Roosevelt Park. This year’s theme is the “Music of Christmas,” and Santa himself will make an appearance.

Purchase toys for tots. The U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys for kids and redistributes them to less fortunate children in the area where the toys are collected. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 16 at participating business, including Ixonia Bank, 491 N. Main St., Dousman. Between Dec. 3 and 14, Seester’s Mexican Cantina, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee, is offering a free house margarita or taco (seafood not included) between 11:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. when guests drop off a new toy valued atat  least $10 for Toys for Tots.

Visit the lights. With more than a million lights on a mile-long road, Country Christmas at Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha is the state’s largest drive-through holiday-lights experience. A perennial favorite is the 200-foot-long tunnel of synchronized lights. Visitors also can park and explore Christmas Village, which houses an elaborate model-train display and sells concessions, and the Streets of Bethlehem, a nearly life-sized nativity scene. On Wednesdays, Dec. 7 and 14, $5 of each $15 carload admission will be donated to the Food Pantry of Waukesha County. Tickets can be purchased online beforehand at www.thecountrychristmas.com or with cash at the door.

Give to the Pewaukee Food Pantry. The Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Club will collect items for the Pewaukee Food Pantry during the Pewaukee Community Christmas Tree lighting from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 3. The Clark House Museum, 206 E. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee, hosts the event, which includes pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, crafts, cookies, hot chocolate, museum tours, caroling with the Civic Broadway Singers and a tree lighting.

Buy gifts for seniors. Starting Dec. 3,the village of Pewaukee and library will have paper light bulbs with ideas for a gift drive to benefit seniors living in resident housing. Gifts should be returned to the same places by Dec. 14. The Primetimers, a group of active seniors through the Pewaukee Park and Recreation Department, will wrap and deliver the presents.

Give to the Wales Food Pantry. Cash and food donations will be collected for the Wales Food Pantry during the annual Breakfast with the Reindeer event in downtown Delafield, from 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 3. Kids can visit with real reindeer, and families can pose for a picture with Santa and his elves. Visitors can stop by the Fish Hatchery grounds for free doughnuts, milk and hot chocolate, or continue to Hawks Inn, 426 Wells St., for a tour of the 1850s-era stagecoach.

Send cards to troops. Visitors to Hartland Lights on Dec. 2 will enjoy a tree lighting at 6 p.m. in the Village Center at North Avenue and East Capitol Drive. Evening entertainment includes caroling, trolley rides, pictures with Santa, cookie decorating and more. People may also create holiday cards for U.S. troops overseas at the Hartland Chamber of Commerce office, 116 W. Capitol Drive.

Help the homeless. Alchemy Salon in North Lake, W315 N7693 Highway 83, is collecting new toys this holiday season for Family Promise of Western Waukesha County, a charity that links existing community resources together to help homeless children and their families with meals, shelter and support services. People who donate a toy will receive $5 off any salon service.

Feed families. the Lake Country Reporter and Lake Country Rotary established their Yule Feed Families campaign 26 years ago. Now, all Lake Country Publications newspapers collect funds that are funneled back into the individual community each paper serves. Gifts benefit food pantries in Kettle Moraine, Pewaukee, Hartland, North Lake and Oconomowoc, and are matched by either the Rotary or newspaper up to a cap. Donations can be sent to 1010 Richards Road, Hartland, 53029, until Dec. 21.

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