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Looking for a Gift Money Can’t Buy?

December 10, 2019DMT.NEWS

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9 Ways to Help Give Back This Holiday

This year, Giving Tuesday helped us assuage our guilt about acting like consumerist pigs over Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales — did we really need another wireless whatever-it-was ordered from Amazon in a post-turkey wine haze? — but one day isn't enough: The upcoming holidays are an excellent excuse to donate to and help the less fortunate, all season long. Whether you have extra cash, time or goods to donate this year, here are some of the easiest and most rewarding ways you can be of service.

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Volunteer in Person

Have time to volunteer but don't know where to start? Check out sites such as VolunteerMatch or JustServe, which have large searchable databases of volunteer opportunities by location. Calls for help aren't hard to find: You can just Google "volunteer opportunities" in your area, or contact a nearby church to ask where they might need help urgently — many host clothing drives, food banks and soup kitchens.

Host a Coat Drive

If you work in an office, it's super-easy to set up a drive for coats, clothing or canned goods, then donate them to local standbys like the United Way or the Salvation Army. Other local charities or TV stations might be hosting a seasonal coat drive, and you contribute your collection there; One Warm Coat lists coat drives near you and can help you set up one of your own. Or you can donate financially to Operation Warm, a nonprofit that makes and delivers new coats for children in need — every $20 pays for one new coat.

Feed the Hungry

Hunger is still a massive and growing problem in the US. (As the documentary “A Place at the Table” pointed out, even full-time workers are increasingly experiencing "food insecurity," the inability to afford nutritious food.) And need may be particularly acute this season: The Trump administration has just cut benefits for 700,000 people who receive supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP). You can donate to a charity that helps fight hunger, such as Feeding America (whose site includes a searchable database of food banks near you), No Kid Hungry, Action Against Hunger and Freedom From Hunger.

Help LGBTQ+ Youth

LGBTQ+ visibility has exploded in the last few years, but many at-risk youth still face crises at home or school because of their identity. The Human Rights Campaign 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report reveals that only 26 percent confirm LGBTQ+ youth always feel safe in school classrooms with only five percent saying all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ+ people. The Trevor Project aims to prevent young LGBTQ+ suicides by providing 24/7 phone, text and chat lines for support. Donations help the organization stay staffed, running and visible. You can also volunteer as a counselor.

Help the Homeless

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homelessness has been on the decline since it started collecting data in 2007, however, in recent years, homelessness has seen an increase again. In many cities across the country, the issue of homelessness seems to be growing at a much higher rate. Aside from standbys such as the United Way, Salvation Army and local religious organizations, other groups are working to confront the multifaceted problem from specific angles: Donations to National Health Care for the Homeless Council help physicians provide medical services to people without homes; Covenant House focuses on outreach to homeless youth and preventing trafficking. You can also give to Backpack Beds, which delivers weather-resistant portable beds to local homeless shelters. Family Promise lets you sign up to help homeless families in more than a dozen ways — including hosting, preparing food, mentoring and skills training.

Support Mental Health

The National Alliance for Mental Health offers phone and text hotlines to help people with mental health issues find care near them. The group also lobbies Congress and hosts awareness events about increasing resources for mental health nationwide. It's matching donations through Dec. 31.

Aid Refugees

Donating to the International Rescue Committee helps refugee families in war-torn regions resettle in the United States and supports immigrant families that have been separated at the US-Mexico border. This holiday season, you can give gifts in the name of friends and family members, and the organization will send them a holiday card of thanks — among the many options: $58 funds one year of school for a child, and $84 provides blankets for 15 refugees in need.

Support Seniors

Meals on Wheels has been going strong for half a century, delivering meals to senior citizens who can't afford or prepare their own food. Unfortunately, the need has only grown over time: Today, nearly nine million seniors are at risk of going hungry. The organization supports more than 5,000 community programs nationwide (listed on their site), so you can donate or sign up to deliver in person. As the group points out, it's not just about food: Volunteers also function as wellness checks for older people who might be isolated.

Give and Keep Giving

Charity Navigator is a one-stop shop for charitable giving: It's a database of more than 9,200 organizations that do good. You can search by topic, browse top-10 lists by subject, vet a charity to ensure it's legit, donate to several charities at once and/or set up recurring contributions.

This holiday, most of us have a lot to be thankful for. We’ll be taking time off work to be there with our friends and family in our cozy homes or warm hotels. Take the time to pay a little forward this holiday, so that by this time next year, more people can feel as fortunate as we do.

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