December 14, 2010


Beth and I love HGTV. Especially House Hunters. It's our vegging-out go-to. We flipped it on the other night. I was a little uneasy and needed the soothing house hunting routine. I'd just been on the phone with my mom. She'd told me that Max, the Haitian refugee who'd been living with my cousin for a year and had been so incredible with my children was being forced to go back home. But - good news! - his family had finally been given somewhere to live that had a roof. Score!

Anyway, I got pissed off at House Hunters. Or, really, just the douchebag who decided to complain about the yellow paint on the dining room walls. Why? Because a) paint color is pretty much the easist thing in a house to fix in a house and b) there's a roof, four walls, a place to pee and a host of tools with which to keep and store food which all presupposes the fact that you have food.

I understand that there are two different standards in the world - one for the haves and one for the have-nots. For the haves, a roof over your head, food in the fridge, access to the internet and a lifespan beyond age 35 is just assumed. None of these things can be assumed or taken for granted by the community of have-nots. I don't have the miracle cure but I do wish the two groups could come a little closer together and that the basic things we take for granted in the industrialized world weren't so hard to come by elsewhere. In a country as rich as ours, there should be no uninsured, no homeless, no children left uneducated or starving at the end of each day, and no veterans left out in the cold. It is beyond my comprehension how these things are allowed to endure.

2010 has been a very difficult year for a lot of people. Many of you, I know. But if you happen to have a couple extra pennies rattling around in your pocket, consider helping. Here are some of my favorites.

- So Others Might Eat (SOME)
- Heifer International
- American Red Cross
- Fisher House
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

What are your favorite charities or best ideas for giving back to those in need?

Posted by Chris at December 14, 2010 6:48 AM

We have St. Vincent DuPaul and they handle clothing as well as our local food bank. They are such awesome people.
I also support the Salvation Army because almost 100% of the money taken in goes to the people they help. You don't work for The Salvation Army, you volunteer.

Posted by: Maribeth at December 14, 2010 8:09 AM

I'd always been a huge supporter of Heifer International, but I finally had to bail on them this year, as their admin costs have topped 20% (they're actually ahigher than 25% at this point), and 20% is my max.

I give to the local food bank (San Diego has an especially good local one), ACCION (which does micro lending, and I love that concept), and a local women's shelter down in Oceanside. Toys For Tots at Xmas.

This is a good place to research how charities spend the $$ you give them, by the way: Charity Navigator.

Posted by: Elise at December 14, 2010 8:51 AM

It's for teens who are homeless. Since the system kicks most of them out at 16, since so many are reduced to prostitution...

Yeah, I'm for this one.

Posted by: alektra at December 14, 2010 9:06 AM (we just visited there on Sunday and they ROCK!)

Posted by: LaineyDid at December 14, 2010 9:23 AM

I'm a fan of Kiva, Hiefer Intl., and the American Red Cross. Beyond that it's cancer research and treatment like St. Jude's and Livestrong.

Posted by: Brad at December 14, 2010 9:43 AM

This year, my husband & I bought gifts for 15 kids at Youth Villages, a local charity that helps low-income at-risk kids. This is the first time we've done anything like this. I've been out of work since january, but there are people who have it a lot worse off than we do. Some of these kids don't even have family.

Posted by: kalisa at December 14, 2010 9:50 AM

My workplace does a Christmas fund raiser each year with our Christmas party. We have an auction of employee donated items and the proceeds go to a local charity. This year it will be Haven House which is a shelter for domestic violence victims. We also collect food for the food bank.

Can I vent a little about charities though? Why do most of them seem to want only new toys? My kids have tons of things that they barely played with and I'm having a tough time finding a charity to take them. That makes no sense to me. I'm not a scrooge about giving, but I have issues with throwing stuff out when it hasn't been worn out yet.

Posted by: Elizabeth at December 14, 2010 10:03 AM

Well said Chris; I think this is an area where we can definitely do more from a tech standpoint. I worked on a project a few years ago that was a knowledge-based ai; those types of projects had petered out a few years ago because of processing times, but we were getting fantastic responses using more modern tools ( good indexes, fast hardware, but nothing fantastic and all commercially available ). Anyway, I realized and confirmed with a social worker friend that these types of apps are necessary in social work for matching people with resources; we are a nation of givers, but it is not the most coordinated network at times, and often the care that you receive boils down to: what you're told is available and what the person who is telling you knows is available; classic information overload problem.

If we could create a system that had "knowledge" of all the available support in an area ( can combine federal, state, and private programs ), and then question an applicant about their circumstances, we could then provide a more comprehensive listing of what aid is available, and how to proceed.

In most cases, homelessness and being "down-and-out" is a relatively temporary, but cyclical, situation. We could use the tech to help stitch together the fragments of the safety net we have to help create a roadmap for people to move through the system, from immediate needs ( food / shelter ) to long term ( healthcare, training, counseling ) and keep track of their progress.

Ok, so kind of talking myself back into picking up this project where I left off. See, seeds you plant! ;)

Also, for the person looking to get rid of used toys, keep in mind that lots of shelters will take older toys, and there is always the secondary "gently used" market of stores; lots of people who are not completely down and out but struggling get lots of stuff there and it goes a long way.

Posted by: metawizard at December 14, 2010 10:30 AM

Oxfam. They don't just help struggling communities in a crisis -- although they do that too -- but help poor people find sustainable ways to provide for themselves.

Posted by: Laura Gato at December 14, 2010 10:39 AM

St. Jude; Paralyzed / Disabled Vets; local food banks; American Heart Association; MS Society...try to keep our giving to those organizations that can do the most good for the most people.

Posted by: Krush at December 14, 2010 12:42 PM

Alzheimer's Association, Ronald McDonald House, USO, Fisher House, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Heifer International, food banks, and needy families at Christmas.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at December 14, 2010 2:10 PM

I like, a micro-lending organization that connects small entrepreneurs directly with folks making loans. The loans tend to be small (like $25 per person, with the entrepreneurs looking for things like another goat, or a sewing machine), and their repayment rate is something like 98%.

I like that you're aware of the discrepancy between what most of us in the US have, and much of the rest of the world does not. We tend to focus on what we're lacking, but in the big picture when we have lodging, food, and relative safety, we're miles ahead of a lot of other folks.

Please keep writing and inspiring.

Posted by: pvz at December 14, 2010 2:43 PM

I sponsor a 12-year-old girl in Calcutta. It's a monthly sum that is not insignificant on my fixed income, but it is well worth it. I write her letters about once a month and every few months I get one back. It is the highlight of my week when I do get one in the mail.

Posted by: Heather at December 14, 2010 3:02 PM

i donate to make a wish foundation, stand up to cancer and st. judes. outside of medical otganizations i think save the music is a good option.

Posted by: Steph D at December 14, 2010 5:26 PM

I think one important thing to remember - something I often have to remind myself - that even when we don't necessarily have money to give, donating time can make a difference, such as ringing the bell at a donation kettle, or helping sort at the Food Bank.

Posted by: Heather at December 14, 2010 6:13 PM

So many problems...

I want to look at giving money this Christmas to a charity that will promote the education of girls in the developing world, Haiti (and it's many problems), the local food bank as well as the homeless.

Posted by: Heather at December 14, 2010 6:40 PM

As mentioned above - the gift of time can be just as beneficial to some of these organizations as our money - particularly when we don't have anything but our hearts to give.

My time and money often goes to cancer charities - particularly breast cancer. Several of my close friends are survivors and as a mother of daughters, I'd love to see breast cancer wiped out.

Posted by: sarah at December 14, 2010 10:06 PM

Awesome post, Chris. Just wait until your kids are teens and then you'll find out how deprived they think they are. It brings an additional perspective. My ex once brought an immigrant woman to speak to our kids about how hard her life was before coming to America. My ex was trying to impress upon our children how fortunate they are. They rolled their eyes and declared my ex to be "crazy". LOL.

Posted by: James Proffitt at December 15, 2010 2:22 PM

At work, my boss and I partially adopted a family through his church. It was very hard for me not go to over the budget he gave me knowing that what we provide was all these people would have on Christmas. I did go over a bit, but it's fine, our company did well this year and we can share. Next year I hope that Andrew and I are in a good enough financial position that we could adopt a family of our own and help make their Christmas memorable. Time will tell.

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