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Veterinarian makes giving easy

Charity still possible during tough times
by: Jim Clark Veterinarian Dr. Chris Holenstein is helping The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign via donations that will determine whether he will shave his head or not. Two buckets — ‘Do,’ ‘Don’t’ — are located in the front lobby of the Gresham Animal Hospital.

Charitable giving during tough economic times often falls lower on the holiday to-do list for many folks.

Fortunately, a little creativity among businesses and nonprofits has yielded avenues for donating that don't break the bank, but still carry an impact for those in need.

Gresham Animal Hospital's owner, Dr. Chris Holenstein, made a personal commitment to help The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign, after learning the proceeds will help East County residents. His ingenuity to enlist the support of his clients could leave him in serious need of a new hat, however.

'There are two buckets in our lobby,' Holenstein said. 'One says, 'Shave Dr. Chris' Head.' The other says, 'Don't Shave Dr. Chris' Head.' Whether I keep my hair or not depends on which bucket has more money by the end of our drive in mid-January.'

A longtime veterinarian, Holenstein came up with the idea after attending the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign kickoff. What appealed to him, he said, was that not only would donations remain in the local area, but would be matched by three outside donors for The Salvation Army.

'Instead of going to the national coffers,' Holenstein said, 'all the funds go to the local capital campaign to build new buildings in East County. It's an easy way to help The Salvation Army when you can donate $1 and turn it into $4.'

Holenstein estimates he's raised about $450 so far, with public sentiment running toward parting him from his curly locks.

'My wife put in $20 to shave my head,' he said, laughing. 'No pun intended, but (the giving concept) has created quite a buzz.'

Nonprofits are also lending a hand to make it easier for donors to give, without taxing their personal finances.

According to Judy Alley, executive director of SnowCap Community Charities, donating to charitable causes doesn't always require money.

'People can clean out their closets,' she said. 'Coats and blankets don't have to be new. If you have a coat you haven't worn in a year, it's probably time to give it to someone who needs it.'

Alley admits that a lot of folks prefer to donate tangible items: bags of groceries, for example, especially when money is tight. But sometimes, Alley said, even the smallest cash donation makes sense.

'We can purchase food through the Oregon Food Bank for 5 cents a pound,' Alley explained. 'That's 20 pounds of food for $1. People shouldn't be embarrassed by donating 1 dollar. We can do a lot with it, and it's the most cost effective way to feed a lot of people.'

Those who help the needy also need help, Alley said. SnowCap and other agencies rely heavily on volunteers to help with office work and other tasks, and donations of personal time hold priceless value.

'We have more volunteers at this time of year,' Alley said. 'I'm not complaining, but come Jan. 2, that pool dries up. If people could make a conscientious resolution to volunteer during the rest of the year, it would be powerful.'