Downsize and do good

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Shera, a lioness at the National Zoo, swipes a paw across a swirl of blue paint. Her claw punctures the paper. A volunteer quickly pulls the “painting” out of her enclosure before she can take a bite out of it, as lion cub Baruti likes to do with his artwork.

Sans berets, smocks or palettes, the animals at the zoo are getting their paws dirty with non-toxic, water-based paint and creating one-of-a-kind works of art that will be sold next spring to raise money for the zoo.

The zoo is now seeking any size canvas, art paper, paint brush or non-toxic, water-based paint for their budding Picassos.

Like the zoo, numerous area organizations are asking for donations of materials and clothing. Donating your gently worn coats or shoes not only helps the needy locally and around the world, but can give you an impetus to declutter.

Recent Beacon columns on downsizing have resonated with our readers. Even if you’re not downsizing to a new home, tackling those boxes in your attic or closet can give you extra space and a sense of accomplishment.

Here are some local programs looking for items, some just during the holidays, but others year-round. If none of these programs is near you, but you have extra clothing or art supplies crowding your closets, call a local preschool or homeless shelter that might welcome them.

National Zoo: Drop donated art supplies at the Visitor Center for the animal care staff to distribute. Animal keepers are collecting gifts for the animals this holiday season and throughout the year. Browse the list of needed items (which must be in new condition) beyond art supplies on the Enrichment Giving Tree section of the zoo’s website

Soles4Souls:This group collects and distributes shoes to people living in extreme poverty and recovering from natural disasters. The shoe collection drop off is located at Mike Garcia Construction Inc. offices: 4320 Prince William Parkway, Suite 113, Woodbridge, Va. Shoes will be accepted between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday through Jan. 31. Or call (703) 906-1658 to arrange drop off. See www.giveshoes.orgfor more information.

Pancake House Winter Clothing Drive: On Christmas morning, the Original Pancake House in Bethesda and Falls Church will serve breakfast to 900 people in the community living in shelters and subsidized housing. While it has gently used clothing to give to those who attend, the restaurant is seeking coats, hats, gloves and fleece tops. Drop off your donations between Dec. 15 and 24 at these Original Pancake House locations: 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Md. and 7395 Lee Highway, Falls Church, Va. For more information, call (301) 986-0285 or (703) 698-6292.

Assisted Living Yarn Donations: Byron House Assisted Living residents recently knitted and crocheted more than 100 baby bonnets and scarves for infants and toddlers in need, which they donated to the nonprofit Families, Inc. They are now seeking donations of yarn to continue their work. Byron House is located at 9210 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac, Md. Contact Sharon Borowiec at (301) 469-9400 for more information.