& & by Pia K Hansen & & & &

There are many local charities that fill an enormous need of supporting people in our community who've hit hard times for one reason or another. Most work year round, day in and day out, providing food, shelter, clothes and other necessities for their clients. Though we know that many Inland Northwesterners also give on a year-round basis, to local food banks and missions and countless other charities, we'd still like to draw attention to just a handful.

& & Gingerbread House Showcase & & & &

There's another new development coming at River Park Square. Beginning Dec. 1, there will be a display of beautiful, whimsical, creative and extravagant gingerbread houses in the main Atrium. These professionally designed houses are for sale at an ongoing silent auction. But even better, for $5 children of almost all ages can decorate and take home their very own house.

The Gamma Epsilon Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha International sponsors the event, with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House, YWCA, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and a Woman in Transition Scholarship which is awarded locally every year.

& & & lt;i & The showcase at River Park Square, 08 W. Main, runs on Friday, Dec. 1, from noon-8 pm; Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 am-8 pm; and Sunday, Dec. 3, from 11 am-5 pm. Call: 363-0304. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

& & Downtown Women's Shelter & & & &

This shelter has a long wish list, both for its nightly shelter guests and its residential program. High on the list for nightly guests are personal hygiene items such as deodorants, combs and brushes. Women who spend the night are provided with a few toiletries so they can shower and get ready for bed. Also needed, especially since it's become so cold outside, are hats and gloves, socks and flannel shirts, sweat pants and shirts and jeans in all colors and sizes. Shoes and boots are badly needed, too. Bus passes and tokens are also welcome. The shelter does accept used items, but new things are greatly appreciated.

& & & lt;i & The Downtown Women's Shelter is at 111 W. Third and accepts donations on an ongoing basis. A complete wish list, with more than 20 items on it, is available at the shelter. Call: 455-2886. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

& & Crosswalk & & & &

The downtown teenage shelter run by Volunteers of America allows teens who otherwise live in the streets to get a safe night of sleep. The teens can also attend classes during the day. Crosswalk has a clothing room, which supplies many of the shelter's clients with used shoes and jeans, sweaters and jackets, donated during the year. For Christmas, however, the shelter is looking for new clothing items, such as sweaters, jeans and shirts, and also blow dryers, portable CD and cassette players and books, to give to the teens as Christmas presents.

"They always get second-hand stuff during the year, so for once, we'd like to give them a new thing, just for them," says Pam Hammer of Volunteers of America. "We have about 150 homeless teens that we see on a regular basis, and this year the Christmas party will be in the afternoon of December 22. Santa will be there, and we'll have a buffet."

Crosswalk also needs donations of food for the buffet, which they plan to hold as a giant potluck. Donated gift items preferably shouldn't be wrapped, since Crosswalk tries to match the incoming gifts with the wish lists of the teens.

& & & lt;i & Crosswalk is located at 525 W. Second. Gifts should be donated no later than Dec. 18. A complete wish list, with more than 30 items on it, is available upon request. Call: 624-2378. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

& & Giving Trees & & & &

These Christmas gift collectors are a wonderful invention, and you can find them on college campuses (both SFCC and EWU have them) and at area malls (the Spokane Valley Mall and River Park Square are both featuring giving trees this year).

At Auntie's Bookstore, for instance, the annual Angel Tree is already up. Customers interested in donating a book to a child for Christmas may pick a paper angel off the tree. The angel has the first name and age of a child printed on it. To give a book to that child, simply pick one out, pay for it and give it to the staff at Auntie's. The bookstore makes sure the book reaches the right child before Christmas. Several local charities and agencies provide names for the tree, and every time an angel is picked off, a gold star with the donor's name goes up in its place.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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