Celebrate the giving season by donating
Dear Readers: In the spirit of this "giving" season, I present my annual roundup of charitable organizations readers should consider supporting.
Your donation may go further at a small local nonprofit than at a large charity. I reserve much of my own donation dollars for local organizations that give within my community of need. This year I made it a practice to also give to local organizations based in communities that were beset by natural (or human-caused) disasters. All contributions count. So do nonmonetary 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.
In researching these charities, I am reminded of how fortunate we are to live in an era where generosity and helping those in need is a core value. This is a subjective list. 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.
Water Mission (watermission.org): Founded by an environmental engineer and his wife in South Carolina in 2001, this Christian-based charity is on the ground in Puerto Rico, installing solar-powered water systems to provide fresh running water in hundreds of rural and isolated communities destroyed by Hurricane Maria.
World Central Kitchen (worldcentralkitchen.org): This relatively tiny nonprofit, started by Chef Jose Andres, hit the ground running (and cooking) in Puerto Rico five days after Hurricane Maria, and started feeding people immediately. To date, they have served well over 2 million meals to Puerto Ricans. According to the New York Times, "No other single agency -- not the Red Cross, the Salvation Army nor any government entity -- has fed more people freshly cooked food since the hurricane, or done it in such a nurturing way."
Music City Cares Fund (cfmt.org): This fund was established very quickly after the devastating mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, where 58 people were killed and more than 500 wounded. All donations to this fund (100 percent) go to support Las Vegas nonprofits helping shooting victims.
Feeding America (feedingamerica.org) Type a ZIP code into this national organization's search engine, and you can find a local food bank within its vast network which will gratefully receive your donation dollars.
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, this organization receives a stellar rating. Operations range from serving in Syria to assisting in Houston, Puerto Rico and providing support during the recent wildfires that have torn through California.
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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. They help communities to rebuild through long-term recovery programs. The website has a cool gift catalogue; purchases help fund the organization's worthy mission.
Patient Services Incorporated (patientservicesinc.org): This organization was founded in 1989 by a clinical counselor who saw the devastating impact of the high costs associated with medical treatment of chronic illnesses. Their simple mission is to help people cover the high cost of health care, through offering "premium and copayment assistance."
Homes for Our Troops (Hfotusa.org): One of my favorites, 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.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)