Here are some other ways local kids have found to help:

Donate a Coat. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington gathers winter coats and blankets every year at Thanksgiving time. Third- through fifth-graders from Powell Elementary School, in Northwest Washington, helped prepare about 250 kids' winter coats donated by customers of the Lands' End company. The coats went to kids whose parents come to the charitable group Bread for the City.

Gather Grub. Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington is one of many area schools that collect food for shelters and needy families. The school collected a whopping 44,000 pounds of food last year.

Open Some Eyes. A sixth-grade class at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington put on a play about homelessness to inspire students to reach out and help people. The class also took food that the school collected and walked it to Shepherd's Table, which gives people meals and other help.

What about you?

Emergency food banks and homeless shelters need donations year-round, but especially at holiday time. They don't always have opportunities for younger kids to volunteer unaccompanied by an adult, but they're always happy to accept stuff kids have collected: food, toys, books, clothing, diapers. Call to see what they need.

Martha's Table, Washington: 202-328-6608.

Shepherd's Table, Silver Spring: 301-585-6463.

The Capital Area Food Bank, covering Washington and suburban Maryland: 202-526-5344.

The Capital Area Food Bank, covering Northern Virginia: 703-541-3063.

The Maryland Food Bank, Baltimore: 410-947-0404.

The Holiday Project of the National Capital Area organizes visits to nursing homes and other places where people are shut in. (If you can't make one of today's visits, try it on Christmas, Hanukah, Mother's Day, etc.) For a list of planned visits, go to www.holidayproject.org or call 703-370-0370.

There are also lots of local volunteer centers you can call. They will ask your age and interests and match you up with a community service project.

The Alexandria Volunteer Bureau, 703-836-2176; Arlington County Volunteer Office, 703-228-1760; Volunteer Fairfax, 703-246-3460; Volunteer Action Center (Prince William), 703-369-5292; Greater D.C. Cares, 202-289-7378; Montgomery County Volunteer Center, 240-777-2600; Prince George's County Volunteer Center, 301-699-2800; Volunteer Center of Anne Arundel County, 410-897-9207.

Food banks collect donations for the homeless and other needy people.