Dear Readers: Many of us are now in the recovery mode of the holiday season -- after gorging on gingerbread and eggnog and letting the glitter of the season release us from December’s gloom. In the spirit of the season, I present my annual roundup of charitable organizations readers should consider supporting.
Your donation may go farther at a small local nonprofit than at a large charity. All contributions count. So do non-monetary acts of kindness, such as shoveling a neighbor’s walk, fostering or adopting an animal, bringing a casserole to a grieving person, or simply abiding with someone in need.
This is a subjective list, based on my own interests. 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 nonprofit.
Charities Helping Children: The mission and the work of Cradles to Crayons (cradlestocrayons.org) is simple: to provide the physical necessities of childhood. From clothing to equipment and supplies, this organization takes in donations, offers community volunteer experiences, and distributes goods from its network of warehouses.
Dolly Parton. Need I say more? This hero-entertainer is providing over a million books each month to children through her Imagination Library (imaginationlibrary.com). Quite simply, she is a force for good in the world: (dollywoodfoundation.org).
Kids in Need Foundation (kinf.org): Their motto is “School supplies. Changing lives,” and they donate school supplies nationally to schools (and kids) in need. Children who do not have the tools (pens, crayons, notebooks, backpacks) cannot do the work.
College Track (collegetrack.org): This organization starts assisting students in ninth grade, making a 10-year commitment to provide services and scholarship money to students who otherwise would not be able to attend college. Being the first member of a family to attend college will change a family’s future.
Horatio Alger Association (horatioalger.org): Last year I was honored as a “distinguished American” by this scholarship organization. Not bad for a farm kid who grew up in a single-parent household. I would not have made it to -- or through -- college without scholarship help, and it is the honor of my lifetime to give back through this organization that provides scholarships to thousands of students each year.
American Indian College Fund (collegefund.org): This is the country’s largest charity supporting Native access to higher education. I am a supporter.
Direct Relief (directrelief.org): This organization, 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, the mission was spread by other immigrants who took up the cause. Operations range from serving in Syria to the survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.
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 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.
World Central Kitchen (wck.org): Founder and chef Jose Andres and his teams of cooks bring their mobile kitchens with food supplies and water anywhere and everywhere, serving storm or disaster-ravaged populations and first responders.
Homes for Our Troops (Hfotusa.org): One of my perennial favorites, this group raises money and then turns the funds into action -- building a new home or adapting an existing home for accessibility. The finished home is then given to a disabled veteran. All services and materials are donated.
Travis Mills Foundation: (travismills.org): Travis Mills is a retired soldier who became a quadruple amputee as the result of an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Mills, whose motto is “Never give up. Never quit,” refers to himself as a “recalibrated warrior,” guiding other warriors and their families toward their own recalibration at a storybook property in northern Maine. Their work is truly inspiring.