63 www. ReadMPM. com | www.MountPl easantMagaz i ne. com | www.MountPl easantPodcas t . com Five ways to give back this Holiday Season 1. Adopt a family. The holidays bring financial pressures for many families in the Lowcountry, which is why adopting a family through East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO) can make a child’s Christmas merry. Whether you shop for a specific family’s wish list or make a general donation, ECCO provides a unique opportunity for locals to become Santa’s helpers. Frances Huffstetler, ECCO’s volunteer and community impact manager, has experienced the impact firsthand. “A mother stopped by to pick up the items that were provided by a donor for her daughter,” she recalled. “I went to get the items and was thrilled to see this child was getting a Barbie house, as I loved everything Barbie when I was a child. As I brought the items out, tears welled up in the mother’s eyes. She was so thankful someone had purchased the Barbie house and said she almost didn’t put it on the wish list because she thought it was too much to ask for.” Visit ECCOCharleston.org to get involved. 2. Make a donation to Operation Vet Fit. Military veterans comprise nearly a quarter of suicide deaths in the United States, and Dan Gaita is determined to change that. His organization has a goal of zero suicides by providing free mental health care, advocacy and community for veterans facing the transition to civilian life. For Dan, it’s personal. He served in the United States Marine Corps 1992-1996 in many capacities. Following his honorable discharge, he went on to earn master’s degrees in organizational leadership and clinical mental health social work from combined studies at Gonzaga University, Fordham University and the University of Southern California. More impressive than Dan’s resume is his commitment to serving his fellow veterans. “My ongoing research on veteran suicide has been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services, the President of the United States and has, as recently as March 2017, resulted in changes in VA policies specific to veterans’ access to mental health services.” To make a financial gift, visit OperationVetFit.org. 3. Support The Nature Conservancy. “One of the amazing things about The Nature Conservancy is that we’re working in 70 countries around the world, but we’re also right here in your backyard,” said Emily Kaufman, Deputy Director of Philanthropy. “When you support TNC, you can choose to help us to protect our shorelines from erosion, mitigate sunny day flooding, clean our waterways, protect land and improve public access to the outdoors.” The Mount Pleasant native grew up fishing, crabbing Operat i on Vet Fi t advocates and s tate l egi s l ator s at the capi to l i n Har t ford, Conn . ce l ebrat i ng the pas sage of new l aws for those i nvo l untar i l y conser ved. BY HEATHER ARTUSH I N feature Photo prov i ded by Dan Ga i ta .