Five ways to give locally

Small change adds upMy mom, a breast cancer survivor, stopped donating to Susan G. Komen for the Cure after discovering they spent over a million dollars last year in lawsuits against smaller groups who used the phrase “for the cure” to promote local fundraisers. This triggered last week’s ruminations about breast cancer awareness here and on my own blog.

But Mom is a generous gal who will never shake her charitable spirit. How does someone like Mom, a woman of humble means, give to make a difference? I suggested she start in her own backyard.

“Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” ~Mother Teresa

I do not intend to minimize good work done by larger foundations and fundraisers. But like my mom, I wonder how agencies that raise millions each year use my meager $25? It gets lost.

Mother Teresa knew giving locally was key. Individuals, families and small causes in your community need help every day. Even in modest economic times, you CAN make small, important waves:

  1. Volunteer. Time is harder to sacrifice than dollars. But time makes an immediate impact on someone’s daily living. Volunteer to babysit so your friend can rest. Grocery shop for a sick family member. Do a load of laundry.  Ask what individuals or local groups need the most to function and give a few hours making that happen.
  2. Share your talents. Website design, crisis counseling, technological know-how and office management are just a few examples of qualities that individuals and organizations often need. Are you a good listener? Sometimes, that’s ALL that’s needed.
  3. Cook. Make healthy food, portion it out and freeze ready-to-eat meals for those days when fatigue wins the battle.
  4. Create. Knit a warm hat for your neighbor’s fuzzy head. Bead a sun catcher for the window or a pair of earrings to perk up your aunt’s face. Paint, sculpt or craft something beautiful to lift the soul.
  5. Did you know October was also Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Next time you load up the car for Goodwill, consider dropping reusable items off at a local shelter. Victims and their children often flee to shelters with the clothes on their back and get re-equipped during their stay.

Items these victims are in need of include:

  • School Supplies
  • Kid’s toys
  • Personal Hygiene products & toiletries
  • Children’s clothes
  • Winter coats/cold weather apparel
  • Bedding
  • Dishes/Kitchen appliances
  • Laundry detergent/cleaning supplies
  • Office supplies

My mom discovered that the 11 year-old son of her favorite bank teller recently suffered a traumatic head injury. He is still in intensive care at Children’s Hospital and the family desperately needs money to cover ongoing medical expenses. My mom didn’t blink an eye when she put a heartfelt donation into the coffee can on the bank counter.

So before giving to abstract “awareness”, consider donating your time and resources to familiar faces or local causes.  It is the most direct charitable action you can take.

[photo: kakisky/morguefile]

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About Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer with nearly 20 years of experience in community health education, non-profit program management and mental health counseling. Amy works on projects that promote greener, healthier living through pragmatic approaches. She is an avid fan of reality therapy, small town farmers markets and dishing out home cooking with unsolicited advice. You can also follow Amy’s adventures in realistic wellness.