“Only great souls know the grandeur there is in charity.” – Jacques BeNigne Bossuet
This holiday season, Americans will spend nearly $500 billion dollars on holiday gifts. This past weekend alone, Americans spent $52.4 billion dollars on holiday shopping.
The money will be spent on electronics, clothes, books, toys, vacations, jewelry, gift cards, video games, DVD’s, CD’s, and cookware. Some gifts will meet legitimate needs (for example, my son will open some new clothes this holiday season). But let’s face it, most gifts will try to satisfy wants: a new Barbie for your daughter, the newest video game for your son, or a K-cup coffee maker for your mother-in-law. Worse yet, many holiday shoppers will spend hours trying to find just the right gift for the “guy who already has everything.”
Meanwhile, there are countless charitable organizations all over this country meeting very real needs of people that will go without holiday gifts. These charitable organizations are providing food and shelter to those without any. They are protecting battered women. They are offering educational assistance to those who most need it. They are offering new opportunities at life for those who have had it taken it from them. And they are counting on year-end giving to keep their doors open for another year.
In short, they are not providing wants. They are meeting needs.
I’m not against giving gifts. In fact, I think that a well-thought-out, timely gift can communicate love and appreciation to a loved one. But I am against foolishly spending all of my holiday spending on those who already have much… when there are so many in desperate need.
Consider just a sampling of some local charitable organizations and the work they are doing to meet the needs of very real people…
- Bicycles for Humanity – Bicycles for Humanity enables people to raise funds and collect unwanted bicycles to send to reliable partners in developing countries.
- Blind Babies Foundation – When an infant or preschooler is identified as blind or visually impaired, Blind Babies Foundation provides family-centered services to support the child’s optimal development and access to the world.
- Brain Injury Adventure Camp - The Brain Injury Adventure Camp, Inc. (BIAC) is an organization that provides activities and education to persons suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
- Bridge Family Center - The Bridge Family Center in West Hartford, CT provides counseling, temporary shelter, life-skills training, positive youth development programs, parent education, community services, and prevention and intervention programs to homeless teens and troubled families.
- City Harvest – City Harvest collects excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to community food programs throughout New York City using a fleet of trucks and bikes as well as volunteers on foot.
- Comfort Cafe- The Comfort Cafe is a not-for-profit gourmet restaurant that offers gluten free, vegan, and other dishes, using local, fresh, organic ingredients – on a pay-as-you-can basis – allowing people of all social classes to enjoy food, community, and comfort.
- COMPASS - COMPASS is an inner-city organization located in Omaha, Nebraska that exists to develop warm and caring relationships, through programs that help meet the academic, social, and spiritual needs faced by those we serve.
- The Connection - The Connection Youth Services provides help to teens and families in crisis in Howell, MI.
- Dare to Dream Children’s Foundation – Dare to Dream recruits and trains volunteers to educate, inspire, and mentor wounded youth in group homes, shelters, orphanages, and detention centers in Dallas, TX.
- Days For Girls – Days for Girls International works to get washable feminine hygiene kits into the hands of those that would otherwise go without allowing them to attend school, work, etc.
- Eat Art – Eat Art is an eclectic collection of photographers, painters & designers committed to artfully ending hunger. When you purchase any art or apparel, meals are sent to hungry children around the world. You get the art. The kids get to eat.
- Essex CHIPS – At Essex CHIPS, youth work in collaboration with adults to deliver youth programming, parent education, substance abuse prevention campaigns and direct local healthy living initiatives for local teens in their community.
- Esther’s Daughters – Esther’s Daughters purpose is to give little girls in the poorest country in the western hemisphere an alternative to prostitution for survival. They provide food, shelter, clothing, education, a place to heal their hearts from all the brokeness and trauma they have been through.
- Feed the Need – Feed the Need is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting education and awareness of local hunger issues by sponsoring physical activities and events.
- Girls Think Tank - Girls Think Tank inspires, empowers and organizes its community in San Diego to advance basic human dignity through activism and advocacy.
- Growing Home – Growing Home’s mission is to operate, promote, and demonstrate the use of organic agriculture as a vehicle for job training, employment, and community development.
- Hoops for Hope – Started by middle-school student, Austin Gutwein, Hoops of Hope is the world’s largest free-throw marathon. Similar to a walk-a-thon, participants raise awareness and funds for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS by shooting free throws.
- Hope Now Adoption Fund – The Hope Now Adoption Fund offers hope to families wanting to adopt, but are hindered by the financial costs.
- The Hunger Task Force – Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, WI believes that every person has a right to adequate food obtained with dignity. Hunger Task Force works to prevent hunger and malnutrition by providing food to people in need today and by promoting social policies to achieve a hunger free community tomorrow.
- Inca Link – Inca Link works in Ecuador and Peru to establish Day Care Centers, orphanages, and pregnant teen homes for the inhabitants of third-world city garbage dumps.
- Living Yoga – Living Yoga is an outreach program teaching yoga as a tool for personal change to disadvantaged individuals in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and transitional facilities in Portland, OR.
- Maggie’s Place - Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for expectant women in Phoenix, AZ who wish to achieve their goals in a dignified atmosphere.
- Mary House – Mary House is a community based organization that provides transitional housing services, shelter and support programs to homeless and struggling families, while providing a safe haven that allows families to reclaim their dignity.
- Meals on Wheels – Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meal services to people in need. With chapters all throughout America, there is likely a local chapter in your community.
- Nebraska Children’s Home Society – Nebraska Children’s Home Society provides safe and loving care to children of all ages throughout the state of Nebraska.
- New Beginning Center – The mission of New Beginning Center is to foster an environment of safety, support and respect for families affected by domestic violence.
- Open Door Mission – Open Door Mission provides men, women and children in Omaha living in poverty with safe shelter beds, nutritious meals daily, and preventive measures.
- Pencils of Promise – Pencils of Promise builds schools in the developing world and trains socially conscious young leaders to take action at home and abroad.
- Plant with Purpose – Plant With Purpose reverses deforestation and poverty around the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor.
- Rocky Mt Children’s Law Center – The mission of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center is to protect and save the lives of abused and neglected children through zealous legal advocacy, innovative programs and public policy reform.
- Sarah’s Circle - Sarah’s Circle’s serves the women in Chicago Uptown’s community who are homeless or in need of a safe space by offering comprehensive physical services, permanent supportive housing, clinical services, a network of resources, and community.
- Second Harvest Food Bank – Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara serves an area stretching from South San Francisco to Gilroy and from the ocean to the bay helping ensure that those who need food have access to it.
- Slam Diabetes – Slam Diabetes’ mission is to help kids with type 1 diabetes and their families deal with this unrelenting disease through empowered living: better glucose management, exercise, diet and education and by raising funds for scholarships, grants and sponsorships for kids and their family members to attend camps and conferences created to help them develop skills and practices.
- Spectrum Youth and Family Services – Spectrum empowers teenagers, young adults, people with a history of violence, and their families in Burlington and throughout Vermont to make and sustain positive changes through prevention, intervention, and life skills services.
- Sunny Hills Services – The mission of Sunny Hills Services is to engage vulnerable children and youth, enrich their connection with family and community and empower them to lead healthy, rewarding lives.
- Susan G. Komen Foundation – As the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, the Foundation works together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.
- Warren Village - Warren Village is a unique family community helping motivated low-income, previously homeless single-parent families move from public assistance to personal and economic self-sufficiency through subsidized housing, on-site nationally accredited child care, advocacy/case management, educational guidance and career development.
- Women’s Bean Project – The Women’s Bean Project transforms the lives of women by teaching job readiness and life skills for entry-level jobs through employment in our gourmet food production and handmade jewelry manufacturing businesses.
- Women of the Americas Sustainability Initiative – WASI is an action-oriented alliance of women leaders who construct, educate, organize, and advocate for strong and empowered communities through ecological design-build practices, with the aim of creating a socially and ecologically resilient world.
- Your Local Charity. – Dedicated to meeting the needs of real people in your local community.