DEAR READERS: Many of us are now in the recovery mode of the holiday season — after attending and hosting holiday events, gorging on gingerbread men and eggnog and letting the glitter of the season release us from December’s gloom. In the spirit of the season, I present my annual round-up of charitable organizations readers should consider supporting.
Your donation may go farther at a small local nonprofit than at a large charity. All contributions count. So do non-monetary acts of kindness, such as shoveling a neighbor’s walk, bringing a casserole to a grieving person, or simply abiding with someone in need through friendship.
This is a subjective list, based on my own interests. Your own giving should reflect your interests and values. Most (but not all) of the organizations listed below have a top (four-star) rating on Charitynavigator.org, which is an excellent source for researching a charity.
DIRECT RELIEF (directrelief.org): This charity, which has a storied history, operates in all 50 states and 70 countries, delivering medicine, staffing medical clinics and providing medical safety nets to underserved populations. Founded in California after World War II by an immigrant who did well in America, the mission was spread by other immigrants who took up the cause. This organization receives a stellar rating and is listed as Charity Navigator’s number one charity value this year. Operations range from serving in Syria to assisting in the recent wildfires that ravaged Tennessee.
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (Doctorswithoutborders.org): Many of us have become aware of the work of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), due to the group’s presence in places of high conflict. The organization is currently operating a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, delivering health care to civilians, despite unremitting violence. DWB-USA provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, malnutrition or exclusion from health care.
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE (rescue.org): Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC delivers lifesaving care to people fleeing conflict and natural disaster. The IRC worked to resettle refugees in Europe dislocated from conflict in World War II, and their work continues in the heartbreaking crisis currently unfolding in Syria, throughout Africa and around the world. IRC helps people in crisis and continues the hard work through refugee resettlement.
POLARIS (polarisproject.org): I first became aware of the work of Polaris through a family member’s advocacy. Human trafficking is modern slavery, and victims are often vulnerable people who are coerced, dislocated and then forced into slavery — often in the sex trade. Victims of trafficking are sometimes in our midst, at bus stops, motels and truck stops. Law enforcement, clerks and long-haul truckers are now being trained in ways to spot and rescue these individuals. Victims can text BeFree (233733) and be connected with an advocate.
SAVE THE CHILDREN (Savethechildren.org): When disaster strikes around the world, Save the Children is there with food, medical care and education and remains to help communities rebuild through long-term recovery programs. The website has a cool gift catalog where purchases help fund the organization’s worthy mission.
DONORS CHOOSE (Donorschoose.org): If, like me, you are in awe of and want to support the hard work teachers do, find a project to fund on the Donors Choose website. Teachers post detailed and inspiring appeals to purchase art supplies, musical instruments or innovative programs and experiences, accompanied by photos of their students.
HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS (Hfotusa.org): One of my favorite organizations, this group raises money and then turns the funds into concrete action, building a new home or adapting an existing home for handicapped accessibility. The finished home is then given to a disabled veteran. All services and materials are donated.
Dolly Parton has set up a special fund to help victims of Tennessee’s vicious wildfires; she promises to give $1,000/month (for six months) to people who have lost their homes through the ”My People Fund” at the Dollywood Foundation (dollywoodfoundation.org).
CHRISTMAS IN THE CITY: I cannot resist the work of this amazing organization in Boston, which is run out of the Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy office and staffed entirely by volunteers. The work was started by Jake and Sparky Kennedy who were distressed by the Christmas bounty their children received, while so many go without. Every year they manage to give thousands of homeless kids the Christmas party of their dreams, with gifts, entertainment and a visit from Santa. Without this annual celebration, many homeless children would never know the joy of an abundant Christmas. Every penny raised goes toward next year’s efforts.