‘Lend a Hand’ to help those in need

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With the hard-hit economy, many Americans are in need of a little help this year.

That's why TODAY's Al Roker is packing up the Penske truck once again to hit the road for the annual Lend a Hand trip. In its eighth consecutive year, Lend a Hand continues its mission to help small charities across the country that work toward improving conditions in their communities. Roker’s goodwill road trip kicks off in Los Angeles, Calif. The trip continues throughout the week in Portland, Ore., Galveston, Texas, Little Rock, Ark., and Charlotte, N.C.

Learn more about the organizations he visits and how you can help:

Day 1: Los Angeles, Calif. Organization: A Chance for Children Foundation

The donors: Attune, Crocs, Del Monte Foods, Mazda, Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Speedo, L.A. Sparks, Under Armour, Microsoft, LeapFrog, Nova Development Corporation, Jansport, Doctor T's Supergoop!, Office Depot, Mr.Clean, Stride Rite, Naked Juice, Scholastic My Time, Sony, Listerine Total Care, Dockers, Glidden Paints, Sara Lee Corporation, Council Member Bill Rosendahal, Ryan Secreast and  KIIS FM, Penske, Johnson Outdoors and Ocean Kayak, Feed the Children, Kodak, Kodak Gallery, TYR, LA County Lifeguards

A Chance for Children Foundation helps support homeless and at-risk youth in a variety of educational and athletic activities, after school programs, summer camps, holiday events, college tuition and an adopt-a-family program that assists families as they make their transition from the homeless shelters to permanent housing.

For many of the children, whose lives have been filtered with hardships, danger and struggle, A Chance for Children represents the dawning of the possibilities to create a better life.

Through the efforts of the foundation and the support of many generous volunteers and donors, help and hope can be offered to these children who need it most. As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us.

For more on A Chance for Children Foundation, go to www.achanceforchildren.org.

Day 2: Portland, Ore.

Organization: Portland Parks Foundation

Location: 506 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100 Portland, OR 97204

Contact: Linda G. Laviolette 503-445-0994, ext. 104

The donors: Toys R Us, Attune, Toyota, Koolaid, Columbia Sportswear, Kinder Care, Nike, Canon, Glidden Paints, Sara Lee Corporation, Jansport, Scholastic, Mr. Clean, Doctor T's Supergoop!, Neosporin, Crayola, Nexcare First Aid Kits, Sahalie, Stride Rite, Penske, Office Depot, Simple Movers

Portland's Parks & Recreation system has a scope, ambition and vitality most cities can only dream of. The green spaces, gardens, forests, swimming pools and playing fields are truly the city's backyard. Neighborhoods affectionately borrow their names, and identities, from the parks they adjoin. Every year, kids ages 5 to 18 attend over 12,000 after school, evening and summer classes through Portland Parks & Recreation, mastering everything from computers to kazoos.

Behind the numbers, of course, are the stories; of fathers and sons finding common ground on a ball field; of little girls learning not just to swim, but believe in themselves; of at-risk kids finding a passion instead of a gang; of all of us reclaiming sanity in the saving grace of a wooded trail.

And we can't serve many of those who need us most. Currently, we have scholarships for a small fraction of those low-income families who require them. Vast Spanish-speaking communities are excluded for lack of bilingual staff. And for every team that gets playing time on our courts and playing fields, others are turned away.

Enter the Portland Parks Foundation, established in 2001 on the recommendation of the "Parks 2020 Vision," a study of the 20-year needs and objectives of Portland Parks & Recreation. Our goals are twofold: to create a parks expansion fund to ensure that all neighborhoods have access to parks and green spaces, and to provide financial aid to low-income youth in the face of shrinking public funding.

More on the Portland Parks Foundation

Day 3: Galveston, Texas

Organization: Help4Galveston1420 31st street Galveston, TX 77550

Contact: Erin Toberman Collaborative organizations liaison 281-468-0818

The donors: Lowes, Ethan allen global, Home Depot, Energizer, John deere, JCPenney, Lutron Lighting Control, GE, Moen, Glidden, Crazy 8, LG, Scholastic, Swiffer, Sara Lee, Mr. Clean, Oral B, Office Depot, Weber Grills, Penske, Pergo

Help4Galveston.org is a collective group of local, state, regional and national agencies, businesses, organizations, communities and individuals working together to help the city and county of Galveston, Texas repair, restore and rebuild after the devastation of hurricane Ike in 2008.

Day 4: Little Rock, Ark.

Organization: Arkansas Rice Depot

Location: 3801 W. 65th St.Little Rock, AR 72209

Contact: Laura Rhea501-565-8855 endhunger@ricedepot.org

The donors: Jansport, Tyson, General Mills, Brian Rabinowitz, Walgreens, Swiffer, Gymboree, Rembrandt, Samsung, Mr. Clean, Oral B, Seventh Generation, Sara Lee Corporation, Scholastic My Time, Johnson's Baby, Acer, Microsoft, Toshiba, Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Penske, Bird and Bear Medical, Inc., Caluco furniture

Nearly one out of every six Arkansans lives in poverty. According to the latest census data (2005), some 164,510 children and 99,096 senior citizens were among the more than 400,000 impoverished residents. No area of the state is without need as poverty and hunger is a problem throughout all 75 counties.

To meet that statewide need, the Arkansas Rice Depot has spent more than 25 years developing a presence across Arkansas. In 2006, we distributed more than five and a half million pounds of food to hungry residents in nearly every county. We were able to feed those in need through a network of more than 800 local hunger-relief organizations. In addition to the local food pantries shelters, soup kitchens and schools that participate, the Arkansas Rice Depot provides 10 regional food drops so food pantries outside of central Arkansas don't have to make the long drive into Little Rock to access our food donation network.

The Arkansas Rice Depot reaches out to those Arkansans in need through a variety of programs including food for kids, food for seniors and disaster relief.

More on Arkansas Rice Depot

Day 5: Charlotte, N.C.

Organization: Community School of the Arts

Location: 345 N. College Street, Suite 413 Charlotte, N.C., 28202

Contact: Andrea Stevenson, president and executive director704-887-0299

The donors: Gibson Guitar, Gibson Foundation, Baldwin Piano, Volkswagen of America, Crayola, Charlotte Bobcats, Eastman Strings, Yamaha Corporation of America/Yamaha Cares, Nike, Columbia Sportswear Company, Glidden Paint, Office Depot, Penguin Young Readers Group, Mr. Clean, Blick's Art Materials, Sara Lee Corporation, Conn-Selmer, Inc. A Steinway Musical Instrument Company, Samsung, Penske, Simple Movers

Community School of the Arts has been an institution in Charlotte for forty years, teaching tens of thousands of students through high quality after-school art and music programs.

The school offers music lessons, art classes and summer camps to hundreds of students and families that can well afford tuition, and its staff and instructors are committed to making those same, high-quality programs available to all students, regardless of ability to pay.

As part of its extensive outreach programs, the School teaches more than 600 students for free each month through grassroots partnerships with Charlotte Emergency Housing, Bethlehem Center, First Baptist Church West and three public elementary schools.

Community School of the Arts uses art and music to nurture creativity, confidence and hope in its students,

teaching children of all backgrounds the benefits of discipline and achievement.

For more information on Community School of the Arts to go www.csarts.org.

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