We are down to the wire with Christmas shopping. Only five more days! It will be a gamble to get anything shipped in time, and the malls? Yikes! But there is still one great way to gift the person who has everything, or is just plain hard to buy for. Give in their name. You know, like to a charity. It’s kind of a like a pay-it-forward for Christmas.
There are no shortage of charities who will take your money, but I have become slightly weird about how I want them to spend it. I like, you know, for it to go to the actual cause I want to support. I know administrative work has to be done and people have to get paid. I’m not suggesting everyone doing hard work for a charity should all be volunteers. That’s not practical or realistic. BUT, how much goes to overhead expenses versus the cause they are raising the money for makes a difference. So, while I still give to a couple of established charitable organizations, I have started scoping out smaller charities run by mostly volunteers who have a passion for just helping people. These charities might not have a big budget, because all the money is given away. They might not have coat-and-tie executives or a brand that everybody recognizes. But they help people in need. People who might not qualify for social services or whose needs can’t be met through mainstream methods. These charities are run by people who just live normal lives and organize fundraisers and give their time to do something meaningful. Yes, there are still people out there who care. It’s easy to forget that amid all the depressing news on the Internet.
So, here are two charities I like and have worked with. Please share any charities you like in the comments.
Somebody Cares/Compassion Acts: Started as a street ministry in Houston in 1981, Somebody Cares has evolved to an international disaster relief organization. They have reacted to help people affected by Hurricanes Sandy, Rita, and Katrina, as well as other natural disasters, such as the tornadoes in Alabama, Missouri, and Illinois. Somebody Cares has developed an extensive network of churches and organizations who respond to send aid for any crisis. Volunteers meet with local churches and charities in the affected areas and setup a distribution network. They have a very efficient and effective process for assessing needs, building relationships within communities, and helping the people help themselves. One of their signature relief projects is Holy Smokes, a portable smoker they truck in for severely affected areas. They buy meat and fire up the pit to feed relief workers, such as local police and firefighters, volunteers who are helping with cleanup, and the people who are displaced from the tragedy. They have an amazing list of testimonials at http://somebodycares.org/stories/. When they were in New York after Hurricane Sandy, a group of truckers from Picayune, MS, drove straight through with trucks loaded with bottled water, paper supplies, and non-perishable goods. These people had been through Hurricane Katrina and responded to a crisis across the country with the same compassion they had received. The organization continues to find new ways to minister by partnering with international ministries to expand their outreach. In the past few years, teams of workers have visited ministry bases in Cambodia to help build playgrounds for orphanages/safe houses and are now in the process of helping them setup new businesses to employ rescued victims from the slave trade.
If you want to help with disaster relief, Somebody Cares is a great organization to support. Their sister organization, Compassion Acts, sponsors the teams of workers to help foreign missions. Like them on Facebook to see their response in emergencies.
Ride to Give: Founded by Ironman Dave Nazaroff and his wife, Kaete, Ride to Give raises money for sick children in need. Many people don’t think about the essential financial extras families face when they deal with chronic medical conditions. Gas money, co-pays, special equipment not covered by insurance, meals and housing when away from home for weeks at a time. It all adds up and turns a family’s financial house upside down. By featuring families and raising money for them, RTG eases the financial burden they face. They have a long list of children they have helped at http://www.ridetogive.com/#!our-causes/cmu. Dave competes in marathons to help raise funds, and this past summer he biked 900 miles from Nyack, NY, to Jefferson, GA, to raise money for Tripp Halstead, a toddler who sustained a traumatic brain injury. They helped raise money for my friends, the Estes family, to buy a wheelchair-enabled bus, for Noah. Dave ran the New York City marathon this year in honor of Noah and sent him the medal! Their fundraisers are handled through a third-party website, Fundrazr.com, so all the money given, minus a small percentage for the website fees, goes to the cause.
Like I said, these are just two out of hundreds of honorable, need-specific charities you can support this holiday season and throughout the year. So, forego the ugly tie or the singing fish, and give a gift that makes a difference.