Angels needed, a few holiday safety tips and Fasken offers challenge grant

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Did you know Taos County has one of the highest percentages of children living in poverty? According to New Mexico Voices for Children, 38 percent of Taos County children live in poverty compared to a statewide average of 31 percent and a national average of 22 percent. For the 21st year, you and Community Against Violence will make a difference for over 500 of these children through CAV's Angel Tree Project, organized each year by Loretta Romo. "Angel" cards have been filled out for individual children listing the child's wishes or needs. Many simply want a warm coat that fits (sizes are specified), hat and gloves, and other practical items. Some may ask for a particular toy item. Teens "Angel" cards still need to be chosen by caring community members. If you are able, please go to CAV's main office at 945 Salazar Road in Taos and choose an "Angel" card or donate money so gifts can be purchased for children entering CAV's emergency shelter just before Christmas.

Holiday season can include some of the best times. But it is also when many of us are busy and distracted by thinking of everything we want/ need to do. Criminals know Christmas shoppers may be particularly vulnerable and hang around shopping areas looking for potential targets. Tips for keeping safe include:

Try to shop during daylight hours or make sure to park in well-lit areas at night. Stay alert to your surroundings -- don't focus on your cell phone. Focus on what's happening around you. It's a good idea to shop with friends.

If you leave any packages in your car, make sure they can't be seen from the outside. Lock your car at all times. If a criminal can't see valuables or easily open the door to look, they are less likely to get into your car.

Keep a firm grip on your purse and packages and don't put them on top of your car to open the door.

If you take a load of packages out to your car and then continue shopping, move your car to another area so it appears you are leaving. Criminals watch to see who take packages to leave in their cars and then target those cars.

Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Some may offer to help you with your packages. At this time of year, we are feeling generous and sympathetic to others who are less fortunate. But criminals will have well-practiced stories of hardship to distract you with the intention of getting close enough to take your money or belongings.

If you take children shopping, make sure they know what to do if they get lost: have a meeting place or have them find a security guard, store employee or a mom with kids.

After unwrapping presents, don't put packaging for the new electronics or expensive items where strangers can see them. Burglars actually look in garbage and recycling bins for packaging, so they know where to target.

If you travel, let trusted neighbors know to keep an eye on your home and put timers on lights so thieves will think twice about breaking in.

On another note, CAV received a generous challenge grant from the Fasken Foundation! They will match donations dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. Help us reach our annual fundraising goal! Every amount is greatly appreciate and helps! Consider adding CAV to your year-end giving list.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at 575-758- 9888. TaosCAV.org.

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