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Ask Amy: This year, those who have, should give

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.

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 pandemic shape-shifts around us, many people are still isolated, alone, fearful, hurting, hungry, heartsick and in need of a hand.

It is also important to remember that, even as the pandemic continues, other 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 further if you donate to smaller organizations within your own community.

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

Below are some recommendations across various categories to inspire your own giving. All are highly rated by Charity Navigator ( Always carefully research any organization receiving your donation.

Providing emergency services to vulnerable people

Direct Relief: 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 disasters.

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

World Central Kitchen: It has been inspiring to watch this organization grow over the past decade from a single outreach by chef José Andrés 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: This is a national umbrella organization of food banks. According to its estimates, at least 60 million people in the United States turned to food banks, pantries and other community programs for help in 2020. Through its website, you can donate money to your local food bank. Enter your Zip code on its website to find the member closest to you.

Meals on Wheels: Nutrition comes in many forms. Volunteers for Meals on Wheels provide food, human contact and comfort to seniors. Type your Zip code into its search bar to find your local provider.

Supporting education

ProLiteracy: Literacy Volunteers of America was founded in the 1960s 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, ProLiteracy hosts an annual “Great American Book Sale,” offering autographed books by best-selling authors.

American Indian College Fund: This organization 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: Founded after the horrific massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six of their educators, the organization now has innovative “Start With Hello” and “Say Something” programs to educate children about social isolation and the warning signs of potential violence.

DonorsChoose: This is a wonderful and fun way to fund specific classroom projects by responding to direct appeals by teachers.

Academy of American Poets: Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate, says: “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 service members and their families

Homes for Our Troops: The work of building and adapting homes for severely injured veterans continues with one of my favorite organizations.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: This organization provides peer support, seminars, and online and in-person support for military families struggling with loss, and it also runs “grief camps” for children. A donation can provide a backpack to a TAPS child 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: This wonderful organization has locally owned “ReStores.” Sales of donated items help Habitat partner with local families to build, rehabilitate and repair safe and affordable homes in people’s communities.

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson, distributed by Tribune Content Agency