December 4, 2009 by D Stack
“At this festive season of the year Mr Scrooge,” said the gentleman taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
– A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
As a good liberal I’m of the belief that the social contract should include provisions for the well-being of its people. However, I also recognize the world we live in is not that world. Also, as a Catholic Christian, I find the Bible rather emphatically insists it is our duty to care for our fellow humans. That appears time and time again in the Gospels, far more times than Jesus made commentary on the sexual issues that get all the press. (For instance, he never once mentions homosexuality in any of the Gospels.) And even if our nation had a wonderful utopia where the needs of all citizens were met, whether from the wonders of libertarian opportunity to a vast liberal safety net, there are people all over the world in need of help.
At this time of year people often think of giving to charities. There are of course the holidays at the end of the year – Christmas being the one that comes most to mind along, with various other holidays with a tradition of gift giving. In the United States there is of course also the tax deduction that charitable donations are eligible for. Since taxes cover the calendar year, if you want a deduction for this year’s taxes, now is the time!
To begin, I’ll discuss some of the charities I’m familiar with, whether from current or previous giving to just being aware of them through other means.
The first charity that comes to mind is your local charities in your town or city. There are people in need in every town or city and especially now. This can take the form of food pantries, prepared meals, job training, mentoring, networking, etc. Most churches of any religion and domination will be aware of what their locality needs and offers. And in many cases it is your time which is just as valuable, if not more so, than any financial assistance you provide.
In nearby Boston I’m a big fan of the works of St. Francis House. St. Francis House is a day shelter in Boston. They provide hot meals, clothing, counseling, substance abuse assistance, transitioned people to jobs and apartments, and a variety of other services. What has impressed me most about St. Francis House is their dedication to respecting the dignity of all their guests, treating them as the people worthy of the love and respect that is so often overlooked.
My wife came from a family with lots of dogs around, with her mother breeding German Shepherds. I grew up pretty much terrified of dogs but have grown to love having a Cardigan Corgi around the house. I’ve become aware of the amazing things that service dogs can give – helping the blind and deaf, opening doors for people, recognizing the warning signs of seizures, etc. One charity I’ve often given to is the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. A friend of mine has suggested NEADS, based in Massachusetts, which trains (frequently with the help of local prisoners) and provides dogs to the deaf and physically disabled. She used to visit their campus annually back when she lived in Massachusetts. There are countless other organizations that a web search can provide.
In a disaster, the first organization on the scene is usually the American Red Cross. Beyond financial needs, if you are in good health they are in need of blood donations. This is a great way to help out if you are of limited financial resources.
The National Marrow Donor Program is dedicated to finding bone marrow matches to people needing a bone marrow transplant to help them fight leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. They need financial aid, but even more vitally, they need you to be tested for their registry. This is especially important if you are of a mixed ethnic background. This is a chance to literally save the life of a stranger.
Vietnam Veterans of America collects clothing and other household goods to be sold in thrift stores. The funds raised from this have been used for lobbying, legal resources, and other assistance for veterans of the Vietnam War. Often they will come to your street to pick up your goods from the curb.
Similarly, the USO (United Service Organization) is dedicated to helping current members of the military. Beyond what they are best known for, providing entertainment for our troops (which is a mission whose importance should not be underestimated), they provide for information referral services, Internet and e-mail access, housing and emergency assistance and support groups.
There are a pair of charities that I’d suggest that help girls and women across the world. The first is Equality Now. From their website
Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure. Issues of concern to Equality Now include:
- domestic violence
- reproductive rights
- female genital mutilation
- political participation
- gender discrimination
The second is the Somaly Mam Foundation. This organization is dedicating to fighting sex trafficking. Again, quoting their website:
Our Vision: A world where women and children are safe from slavery.
Our Mission: To give victims and survivors a voice in their lives, liberate victims, end slavery, and empower survivors as they create and sustain lives of dignity.
Among their programs include efforts to rescue victims of slavery, working to prevent slavery, help survivors, and raising awareness. My eldest daughter, who is quite interested in history, was horrified to discover there is still slavery in the world and is glad we give to the Somaly Mam Foundation monthly.
Getting a bit lighter are various programs designed to provide toys for the children of needy parents. As a parent, I can only imagine what it must be like to be unable to afford getting your children anything for Christmas. Toys for Tots is probably the best known organization. Also, many churches and businesses have programs designed to get presents to children. I’d strongly encourage you to help one of these programs out. Odds are you’re buying presents anyways, why not help a child smile on Christmas morning?
I think it is great to give to charity all year round. If your resources allow, I’d strongly encourage you to help out in some way. If not, please consider helping one of these or many other organizations in some other way. I would just encourage you to be cautious with organizations you are not familiar with. I suggest visiting an independent website like Charity Navigator or Charity Guide to investigate any program you are not familiar with.