As you read today’s column, I want you to keep an old saying in mind: Spread the wealth.

That’s the principle behind a brand-new Washington Post charitable effort that I’m delighted to announce. It’s called The Washington Post Helping Hand, and if you’re involved in the local nonprofit community, I hope you’ll get involved.

The same goes if you’re a reader of The Post — which, obviously, you are.

To be honest, though, reading the news these days can be dispiriting. If it isn’t war, famine or disease in foreign lands, it’s desperation and dysfunction in our own back yard. Too many of our fellow Washingtonians, Marylanders and Virginians are homeless or hungry, their families burdened by poverty.

The Helping Hand is The Post’s way of encouraging support of local charities that work to combat such dire situations.

Basically, it works like this: In October, The Post will select three local nonprofit organizations whose stories I will tell in the newspaper and online. Our hope is that readers will be moved to donate to these charities.

As Katharine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post, put it: “The Post has always strived to support the nonprofit community in a deep and meaningful way, and with Helping Hand we will be able to continue that tradition while also connecting the local community with those in need.”

First, of course, we have to find the charities. That’s where you come in.

If you’re employed by a local nonprofit that does work in the area of human services — a broad category that basically means you help the people who need help most — I hope you’ll come forward and apply for participation in Helping Hand. Or, perhaps you volunteer for such a charity, donate to it or have benefited from its assistance yourself. Let its staff know about The Washington Post Helping Hand.

We’re looking for registered 501(c)(3) organizations in the Washington area that provide direct assistance to families and individuals. A committee will choose three of these nonprofit organizations to be beneficiaries. Over an eight-week period beginning in late November, The Post will publish several stories every week featuring individuals and families directly supported by these organizations.

Once the stories begin appearing, readers will be able to donate directly to the organization of their choice.

To get this rolling, we need your charity to send a letter of inquiry to us at It should include such information as the charity’s history, the geographic area it serves and the programs it sponsors. (Details can be found at

The deadline to submit a letter of inquiry is Sept. 10. Selected organizations will be notified by Sept. 15 that they’ve made the first cut and should fill out a complete Helping Hand application. That application is due Sept. 26.

The Helping Hand committee will visit the finalists and notify the three winners by Oct. 13.

Our new endeavour means I will no longer be writing stories about Camp Moss Hollow or Children’s National Medical Center. The Post has enjoyed its long association with those worthy charities, and, obviously, if you’re a longtime donor, you should continue your support.

The Washington Post Helping Hand is designed to offer assistance to some of the often unsung organizations that provide a much-needed safety net in our area. The help that Helping Hand provides won’t be permanent. Every three years, we’re going to select three new nonprofits. (Spread the wealth, remember?)

Since the day this column started — in 1947, by Bill Gold — it’s been a place to shine a light on the good in our community. The Washington Post Helping Hand continues that tradition. I’m excited by this new initiative and hope you will be, too. Stay tuned.

Pure Gold

I never met Bill Gold — who wrote this column from 1947 until he turned it over to my predecessor, Bob Levey, in 1981 — but I have a favorite story about him. When the column began, it wasn’t bylined. Instead, it was credited to “W.E.G.,” Bill’s initials.

The column received such a positive response that after a few months, the powers that be at The Post told Bill he could slap his full name on it.

Almost immediately, he received a letter in the mail: “I much preferred the column when it was written by W.E.G.”

Everyone’s a critic.

Twitter: @johnkelly

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