Dear Readers: The week after Christmas is traditionally a sort of bloated rest period for many, where we recover from the busy holiday season by taking stock, tidying up, and planning our new year diet and fitness regimen — from the couch. For many, this week marks a pause. A sigh. An exhale.
But this year is not like other years. We have not been traveling, partying, studying in crowded lecture halls, or playing with our school friends. We have not been worshiping together, visiting our elders, or going to movies, concerts, and theater. We have been hunkered down, many of us out of work, exhausted from the altered lifestyle none of us anticipated — and we are yearning, so deeply, to hug — and to be embraced in return.
Because of a devastating pandemic that the WHO has deemed a “world-wide health emergency,” we are facing the possibility of at least a few more months of the same.
Those of us lucky enough to have anything extra this year should demonstrate the tenderest of tender mercies — by compassionately giving what we can to those who need it.
One way to share our desire to hug — and be hugged — is to give to organizations that help others. 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.
All nonprofits mentioned here receive the highest rating from Charitynavigator.org.
Helping the Hungry
Feeding America is a national umbrella organization of food banks. According to their estimates, COVID-19 is creating a hunger crisis of more than 50 million Americans classified as “food insecure.” This includes 17 million children.
Through their website, you can donate money to your local food bank. Enter your ZIP code into the Feeding America website to find your closest member of their network. Also do what you can to donate your time, money, or food to your town’s local smaller food pantry.
World Central Kitchen: In only 10 years, Chef Jose Andres has created a quick-response international feeding program, showing up with chefs and portable kitchens at the sites of natural disasters.
The pandemic has expanded their mission. Traditional safety nets like school feeding programs, city services, and food banks are struggling to meet basic needs. Seniors, who are isolated for their safety, are unable to access meal services.
WKC is distributing individually packaged meals to hungry individuals (33 million meals in 400 cities). The organization is also helping to keep restaurant workers employed and working.
Meals on Wheels: During the pandemic, food delivery to seniors is even more vital. Volunteers safely delivering food are often the only outsiders to have any contact with seniors. Check with your local Meals on Wheels organization to see how you can help. (At mine, generous citizens can even sponsor a delivery van!)
Cradles to Crayons: One of my favorite charities helping babies and children has set up “Giving Factories,” to redistribute gently used kids’ clothing, books and new school supplies. Support their work through a financial donation, volunteering, or donating goods.
Imagination Library: National Treasure Dolly Parton’s important literacy campaign (run through the Dollywood Foundation) has expanded internationally, mailing new books to millions of children.
Habitat for Humanity: Your local chapter continues the important work of building quality affordable housing for those in need.
Crisis Text Line: This innovative, accessible and successful crisis “hotline” reaches multitudes, offering 24/7 crisis support staffed by volunteers throughout North America. Anyone in crisis can text HOME to 741741 and receive immediate help. The need for crisis services has never been greater.
Helping Health Care Workers
Direct Relief: Founded in California after WWII by an immigrant, the mission was spread by other immigrants to America, who took up the cause. Operating in all 50 states and 80 countries, over this past year they have distributed more than 46 million masks, gloves, and protective suits, equipment, and financial support to healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.
Helping Veterans: The work of building and adapting homes for disabled veterans continues with one of my favorite organizations, Homes For Our Troops.
Bob Woodruff Foundation: The need for emergency support for veterans is overwhelming this year. The Bob Woodruff Foundation answers the need, with money, housing, and employment services.
Helping Artists: The arts, especially the performing arts, have been decimated during our year-long shutdown. Please help your favorite artists by attending their livestream events, contributing to their GoFundMe pages, and donating to arts organizations and local historic venues.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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