Lifestyle

ASK AMY: Those that have, should give


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Dear Readers: Last year when I wrote my annual “Charity Roundup” column, we were all hunkered down and experiencing a solitary holiday season, as we all coped with the prospect of a long pandemic winter.

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We collectively longed for hugs and handshakes, for in-person visits with our elders, and for the creative boost of attending a live concert or theater performance.

We wanted to sing out loud again.

This year is something of a hybrid. As the global pandemic shape shifts around us, many people are still isolated, alone, fearful, hurting, hungry, heartsick, and needing a hand.

It is also important to remember that, even as the pandemic continues to flare, other human-born challenges, social ills and natural disasters still happen.

Those of us who are lucky to have enough should give away as much as we can.

Your dollars might go farther if you donate to smaller organizations within your own community.

Give to your local library, historical society, theatre ensemble, and the feeding ministry at a nearby house of worship. Shovel your neighbour’s sidewalk. Send cards and letters to elders. Encourage the children in your life by modeling compassion and kindness. Read to one another!

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Below are some recommendations across various categories in the U.S., to inspire your own giving. All are highly rated by Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org). Always carefully research any organization receiving your donation.

Providing Emergency Services to Vulnerable People

Direct Relief (directrelief.org): This venerable institution (and perennial favorite of mine) continues to adapt its services to provide quick and competent medical care and specialized equipment for people affected by man-made or natural disasters.

Water Mission (watermission.org): This innovative organization was founded by environmental engineers George and Molly Greene, who engineered their faith into action by designing and distributing simple water supply systems, and then teaching local populations how to build and maintain their own.

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World Central Kitchen (wck.org): It has been inspiring to watch this organization grow over 10 years from a single outreach by Chef Jose Andres into a worldwide emergency feeding program, partnering with hundreds of chefs, cooks, and volunteers to feed first responders and survivors of natural disasters.

Feeding America (feedingamerica.org): A national umbrella organization of food banks. According to their estimates, during the pandemic, 60 million “food insecure” Americans turned to food banks for help last year. Through their website, you can donate money to your local food bank. Enter your ZIP code into the Feeding America website to find your closest member of their network.

Meals On Wheels (mealsonwheelsamerica.org): Nutrition comes in many forms. Volunteers for Meals on Wheels provide food, human contact and comfort to seniors. Type your ZIP code into the search bar for your local provider.

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Supporting Education

ProLiteracy (proliteracy.org): Literacy Volunteers of America was founded in 1960 by Ruth Colvin, who launched the charity from the basement of her Syracuse, N.Y., home. Now a global effort tackling the unique challenges of adult illiteracy, they host an annual “Great American Book Sale,” offering autographed books by bestselling authors.

American Indian College Fund (collegefund.org): Provides financial support for Native American students and tribal colleges and universities. Many recipients return to their communities, inspiring and empowering others.

Sandy Hook Promise (sandyhookpromise.org): Founded after the horrific murders of 20 young schoolchildren and six of their teachers, the organization’s innovative “Say Hello” and “Know the Signs” programs educate children about social isolation and the warning signs of potential violence.

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Donors Choose (donorschoose.org): A wonderful and fun way to fund specific classroom projects by responding to direct appeals by teachers.

Academy of American Poets (poets.org): The U.S. poet laureate, Joy Harjo writes, “Without poetry, we lose our way.” The pandemic has carried many people toward poetry. This organization supports poets and readers, offering its popular “Poem a Day.”

Supporting Servicemembers and their Families

Homes for Our Troops (hfotusa.org): The work of building and adapting homes for disabled veterans continues with one of my favorite organizations.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (taps.org): Provides peer support, seminars, and online and in-person support for military families struggling through loss, including running “grief camps” for children. A donation can provide a backpack to a TAPS kid attending camp, sponsor a customized care package for a newly bereaved widow, or provide emergency financial assistance for a struggling military family.

Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org): This wonderful organization has now opened locally owned “ReStores.” Sales of donated items help Habitat partner with local families to build, rehabilitate and repair safe and affordable homes in your community.

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