Holiday charity giving – Eleven ways to make a difference

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Every year, when the Salvation Army bell-ringers appear outside of stores, I am reminded of the many who might not have warm beds to sleep in, hot meals, or gainful employment.  While I always tip my extra change into their buckets, I also realize that the Salvation Army, while appreciative of holiday givers like me, needs help throughout the year.  Being poor isn’t seasonal.

We all, in some way or another, can take the time to make someone’s life a little better, throughout the year.  Here are a few ways:

1.  Drop your change in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time…even if it’s just a nickle, it matters.

2. Do a household deep-cleaning every spring, and donate unneeded clothing and household items to Goodwill.

3.  Keep a few bottles of water in your car for the homeless.  A former psychology professor of mine told me that whenever he saw a homeless person begging at a busy intersection, the very least he could do was unroll his window and pass out a bottle of water.  Now might not be the time to judge whether someone is panhandling because they need money for drugs, or whether they just need money for food.  He said that everyone needed water, and by giving this simple small thing, he was still helping.

4.  For yearly charitable donations, think about giving to the organizations with the less overhead.  Look to see how much an organization’s CEO makes…if s/he’s making several hundred thousand a year (or in the millions, as some of them are), you might want to reconsider where your money goes.

5.  Teach someone to read.  Here in Houston, we have Literacy Advance, where you can donate your time to teach a class or one single student how to read.  When you teach someone to read, you’re giving that person the tools for a better job and personal growth.

6.  Stop by a local food pantry, and give a few cans of food, or your time.  Here in my community, the food pantry is at a local Catholic Church, and they tell me they need more than food…they also need literacy teachers, and volunteers to help distribute the food.

7.  Donate a few hours a week (or month) at your local library.  Library funding is being cut across the United States, although demand is at its highest ever.  Libraries appreciate help shelving books, teaching classes (I’m teaching a social media class at my local library in February), and working book sales.

8.  Host a fund-raising party.  Have a party in your home, asking attendees to bring a canned good item or monetary donation for a named charitable cause.  The party’s fun, it’s a great way to meet new people, and a charity benefits.

9.  Give your kid’s teacher some money for school supplies.  School budgets are being slashed, and teachers are spending their own money to buy things like construction paper, crayons, glue, and glitter.  If you’re uncomfortable with giving money, call your child’s teacher, and ask what s/he needs for the classroom.

10.  Give to your neighbor.  Make a batch of cookies, and bring them next door to the neighbor with three school-aged children.  She’ll be happy to see you.  Call an elderly member of your community, and ask if she would like to accompany you to the store or the library.

11.  Shop local.  Buy from the vendors in your community.  When you help them, you’re helping your community.

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