Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2016, Day Five: Charities
Posted on December 2, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 72 Comments
For the last four days, the Whatever Shopping Guide 2016 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.
How to contribute to this thread:
1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.
2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.
3. It’s okay to note personal fundraising (Indiegogo and GoFundMe campaigns, etc) for people in need. Also, other informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam. I would suggest only suggesting campaigns that you can vouch for personally.
3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.
4. Keep your description of the charity brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the charity and is interested but easily distracted.
5. You may include a link to a charity site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.
6. Comment posts that are not about people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.
All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.
The Heinlein Society was founded by Virginia Heinlein and exists to preserve the legacy renowned writer Robert Anson Heinlein left us in novels, essays, speeches and short stories that remain as fresh as ever. We intend, in Heinlein’s words to “PAY IT FORWARD” since we can never pay back the benefits that we got from him and his work.
We provide free educational material to teachers and librarians and promote Heinlein Blood Drives at conventions. Since Robert Heinlein started the blood drives this is one of our core missions. We have collected close to 30,000 units and in FY 16 we have gathered more than 2800 units. If you attend a convention that doesn’t have a blood drive, contact our Blood Drive Chairman at BloodDriveChair@Heinleinsociety.org and talk to him about volunteering.
In 2016, our scholarship program for STEM students grew not only in the number of applicants but in the number of scholarships we could support. For the first time we granted three $1000 scholarships, including the inaugural “Ginny” scholarship which is open to female STEM students only. A donation to this program could help us increase either the dollar amount or the number of scholarships we can support.
Our Heinlein for Heroes (H4H) program supports military members and veterans by providing copies of Heinlein’s books, as well as other science fiction books to deployed troops and military hospitals. Since its inception in 2013, we have shipped around 11,600 books to service members around the world.
As a private, nonpartisan 501(c)(3), The Heinlein Society survives on membership fees and donations to support “Paying it Forward”. As these resources plateau and the demands on our organization increase, we are asking for your support with a direct gift to the Society to support our mission.
So if you have ever grokked, shared water, been amused by or owned by a cat, loved AI computers or have longed for the stars, pay it forward just a little bit by considering making a tax deductible donation or by becoming a member. If you donate, you can choose which of our programs your donation supports. http://www.heinleinsociety.org/
This is a group effort of a bunch of RPG publishers – if you like Superhero RPGs, please give this a look. It’s Pay What You Want and all proceeds benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center – whose work against bigotry, discrimination and racist policies is well known. Take a look! :)
I have a regular automatic donation going to Food for the Poor (http://www.foodforthepoor.org/). They focus on relief efforts in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries. And here’s the thing if you’re worried about administrative costs: over 95% of all donations go to programs that help the poor.
One of my favorite local charities that we’ve worked with quite a bit is The Kitten Nursery. (https://www.facebook.com/kittennursery). They are a no-kill shelter for abandoned and surrendered cats and kittens in the mid-Michigan area. I can speak from personal experience that they are wonderful folks and do an amazing job of finding fur-ever homes for the felines that are lucky enough to get into their network. They have a great group of foster homes they work with and are 503(c)(b) certified.
Please donate to your local women’s shelter. They may also have a wish list on their webpage for items they need.
Here is mine.
Please consider donating to Minds Matter, an amazing organization that helps high-achieving high school students from low-income families prepare for and get into college. Students and volunteers meet every single Saturday for mentorship and tutoring.
You can look up the national organization (http://www.mindsmatter.org/) or a local chapter in your city (http://www.mindsmatternyc.org/). The great work is done mostly by volunteers and just a handful of staff. It’s a small organization that directly impacts hundreds of lives.
Planned Parenthood offers healthcare and family planning services to women on a sliding scale basis so that income will never be a factor in whether or not a woman gets the care she needs.
Best Friends Animal Society, based in Kanan, UT, is an outreach and animal rescue sanctuary that works with shelters and rescue groups around the country to find homes for homeless animals and promote spay/neuter programs. They have a large sanctuary/no-kill shelter in Utah across over 35,000 acres. They’re probably best known for taking in over 20 of the Michael Vick dogs. These are really good people doing amazing work.
Thank you so much for offering this space to such a great mission!
Shelterbox provides shelter to displaced people in the aftermath of disaster. “ShelterBox aid is tailored to a disaster but typically includes a disaster relief tent for a family, thermal blankets and groundsheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and children’s activity pack.” http://www.shelterboxusa.org/index.php
Your local food bank and local shelters are always a good choice as well.
Bring a smile to lips that aren’t Homo sapiens this Christmas. Doberman Rescue of the Triad will use your gift to feed, heal and shelter some truly worthy canines until permanent homes are found for them. If you prefer equine lips, then Saddlebred Rescue will do the same for horses. Both adopt across the country so you could be helping a new neighbor. I trust both groups to use my donations wisely and with love.
This year I’ve been giving to these charities:
St. Jude’s (they’re responsible for helping both a family member and a friend, so I give to them all the time). https://shop.stjude.org/GiftCatalog/donation.do?cID=14262&pID=24671&sc_icid=header-btn-donate-now
Wounded Warrior Project. https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=675&campaignSource=ONLINE&source=BS16084&gclid=CjwKEAiA1ITCBRDO-oLA-q_n8xYSJADjBQfGfc9h-2TWfdsObT_pMLUTOmYiHxhMcSzIxlzTa79USRoCObTw_wcB
Planned Parenthood. You can give to specific local organizations or Planned Parenthood as a whole. They need us now more than ever. https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2;jsessionid=045DFDAC82DA64A8C69DA129E071F6D6.app20109a?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1&s_src=Evergreen_c3_PPNonDirected_c3web_VideoPortal&_ga=1.40776098.1238354560.1480690382
I’m raising money for the Austin Children’s Shelter. The team I train with for the Austin Marathon does this because our coach has a personal connection to foster kids. And because the stories of the kids who end up at the Shelter will just shatter your heart. So, if you can, please donate to help them out. Administrative costs are taken care of elsewhere, so every penny goes to the kids, it is tax-deductible – and donations of $25 or more get you entered in my team’s drawing for prizes (mostly local gift cards, so only really cool if you’re in Austin or planning too come here): http://www.teamfxaustin.org/newsite/sponsor-a-runner/
I’ve donated to a lot of charities since the election, but there’s one non-US related charity that is very dear to my heart. That is APOPO’s HeroRATs. They train African pouched rats to detect landmines and TB. The rats are big (and adorable), but light enough that it is safe for them to walk on the landmines. They are also quicker at detecting both landmines and TB.
To learn more: https://www.apopo.org/en/
To donate (including rat adoption): https://support.apopo.org/en/support-us
Also, keep an eye on their social media for cool shirts, hoodies, and so on that you can buy to support and rep HeroRATs!
There are many worthy organizations, I would like to point your attention to Lambda Legal, a national charity committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. The group has been defending people that have been terminated from work because of their sexual orientation or HIV status for decades. Learn more here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20161129_workplace-discrimination
They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (i.e. fully tax deductible). They get a great score at charity navigator as well.
p.s. Also, make sure to check your charity at http://www.charitynavigator.org/ before donating. There are some “charities” out there that work for very worthy causes, but they spend all your donations in administrative tasks instead of spending them for the cause they are supposed to be working for. Charity Navigator looks at their financial disclosures to ensure that the charity is not wasting the money you give them. There are a lot of people in need, let’s make sure that our money are used effectively!
Thank you for doing this!
My mom founded a non-profit called The Lift a little over a decade ago in St. Paul, Minnesota to work with youth on job skills, financial literacy, and healthy relationships. It’s grown by small steps over the years, and I feel very grateful that I was able to be involved since the beginning. What I love about the organization is that everything is done in a relational, inclusive way. The Lift works hard to make sure all their programs reflect their core value of developing reciprocal relationships between people from diverse backgrounds. Check it out! http://www.theliftcdc.org
A few animal charities that always touch my heart (yay for the APOPO links above) are:
Small Angels Animal Rescue (MD/VA/DC based, rescuing rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, etc). http://www.smallangelsrescue.org/
Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, they do fundraising to help cover medical and adoption costs, as well as helping with the neonatal kitten supplies. I do foster the bottle babies, and their assistance has helped me keep many kittens happy, healthy, and alive. http://www.ffcas.org/
Fairfax County Animal Shelter has an Amazon wishlist. https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/96AEL1WS4QHR/
Bat World Sanctuary helps orphaned, wounded, and sick bats. If you haven’t seen the video of L’il Drac, prepare to get teary eyed when you finally do watch it. https://batworld.org/
They also have an Amazon wish list: https://www.amazon.com/wishlist/3S73F93YMNPZW/ref=sr_1_1_acs_wl_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364659811&sr=8-1-acs
Batzilla the Bat helps bats in Australia. Even sending $10 for the netting fund helps these sweet creatures. https://www.facebook.com/Batzilla-the-Bat-445796495553687/
And finally, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust takes in orphaned elephants. They run T-shirt campaigns and post adorable videos of the orphans. https://www.facebook.com/thedswt/?fref=ts
Fur and Feather Animal Assistance (FFAA) is a permanent residential facility for dogs and cats designed for comfort, well-being, and CARE FOR LIFE for lost, abandoned, or unwanted animals in Catron County and the surrounding New Mexico communities. FFAA relies on donations from the public for funding, as they do not charge a fee for services.
FFAA provides veterinary care for animals in need and provides spay/neuter services for animals that will be adopted. Spay/neuter for population control is stressed, and FFAA will help pay the costs of those procedures for any owner who cannot afford it.
FFAA is a No-Kill Sanctuary and will not euthanize any animal to make room for others. FFAA works with Albuquerque and other municipal and county pounds to take in animals that are facing euthanasia when the pounds have no room.
48 Ed Jones Rd.
Pie Town, New Mexico
Give Directly might be the most important charity in the history of humanity. They send money directly to the poor. And they do science on the results, determining the long-term consequence of the intervention. They are currently engaged in a 10-year study on a minimum basic income, asking the question: What is the long-term impact of providing sufficient wealth to meet basic needs, no questions asked?
My cousin, who I grew up with and was very close to, used to be addicted to painkillers (and probably much more.) His mother finally made him go to rehab, and he went to The Healing Place in Louisville, KY, and it worked. He’s relapsed once, and they worked with him and got him back on his feet again and even found him a decent job to support himself. I cannot say how grateful I am to the Healing Place for what they did. I give them money yearly. Please support, if you can. http://www.thehealingplace.org/
I have volunteered a bit for my local no-kill shelter, Paws, here in Central Texas: http://pawsshelter.org They are really needing money at the moment to refurbish their dog kennels and fencing, which is all past its best. But really, if you have a local no-kill shelter, I’m sure they would love your donation.
If you’re willing to help a couple of individuals directly and make a big impact on someone’s life, I have two YouCaring fundraisers to point you at.
The first is A Home for Wings & Aji. I know these people personally. They had a manufactured home that was repo’d after the great recession in 2008, because manufactured homes don’t have to follow the same rules as standard housing, and so the finance company refused to work with them on restructuring debt etc. They are Native American artists and activists, and are building a home on tribal land through sales of Wings jewelry and crowdfunding (they’ve been living in an ancient RV that is unsafe for the last 6 years). Even if you don’t want to financially contribute, shares of the YouCaring page via social networks help. https://www.youcaring.com/wings-and-aji-660642
The second is Linda McClure: An Eco-Warrior In the Fight of Her Life. I also know Linda; through my friendship with Aji. She has aggressive cancer, and as she was the primary breadwinner supporting herself and her sister, they’re going to need expenses covered while she cannot work as well as for costs of medical treatment. https://www.youcaring.com/lindamcclure-701718 Again, shares through your social media networks would help as well. Thanks for reading.
There are two DC area charities I’d like to plug here.
The first is House of Ruth, which serves homeless and battered women. The need to support organizations like this in the DC area has become more urgent because gentrification and rising rents means that the money House of Ruth uses to subsidize apartments for battered women (in addition to running shelters) doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to.
I also highly recommend ThriveDC. They serve the DC homeless population with a focus on the addicted and the mentally ill. They also have programs specifically for female former felons and for homeless women. For instance, when collecting clothing for the homeless, they specifically ask for bras, and they also supply tampons and sanitary napkins, which are not reusable and are not cheap. They also sponsor women only AA and NA meetings (to alleviate the “13th step” problem).
A lot of people are giving to advocacy organizations right now, but when the dust settles in January, we’re going to see the social safety net weaken significantly. I’m proud to work for an organization that’s part of the solution. Career Resources, Inc. works throughout much of Connecticut to provide training and placement assistance to job seekers. Many of the people we work with are facing one or more severe barriers to employment, such as lack of education, mental illness, or past criminal convictions.
Unfortunately, Connecticut is in the middle of a severe budget crisis right now that’s expected to continue through the next fiscal year, so state-level support for our programs has been severely reduced. Every donation helps us keep providing these important services to support families and their communities.
After the election, I’m giving more to Planned Parenthood.
Also Kiva- http://www.kiva.org, a micro-lending program. Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. We celebrate and support people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
By lending as little as $25 on Kiva, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. For some, it’s a matter of survival, for others it’s the fuel for a life-long ambition.
100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors.
I’m the Secretary/Treasurer of Con or Bust, Inc., which helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF cons. (You may’ve seen our host offer stuff in our annual auction or run impromptu donation challenges for our benefit.) There are several ways you can support Con or Bust, including getting PayPal to donate an extra 1% of your donation out of its own pockets!; check out this blog post from earlier in the week for details. Thanks!
A few more DC-area charities:
Casa Ruby, a shelter for LGBT Latinx youth that’s run by a member of the community. They offer temporary housing, career training, meals, emergency housing referrals, and other services to an extremely vulnerable group.
Food & Friends, who provide cooked meals to people whose medical needs are complicated by poor nutrition. F&F originally served HIV-positive individuals, but as that group began to live longer and healthier lives, the organization shifted its focus out to help anyone facing life-changing medical issues, including cancer and diabetes. (This is also a grand place to volunteer, should anyone be interested.)
HIPS, an outreach group that focuses on getting medical and social services to people involved in sex work.
In non-DC news, one of the costumers from Supernatural is helping curate wishlists for Syrian refugee families settling in the States. Lists are updated regularly.
Thanks for doing this, Mr. Scalzi. May the holidays be joyful for you and yours.
I’m going to plug a local no-kill cat shelter in Tyngsborough, MA called Kitty Angels. We have volunteered with them in the past, have given homes to many KA kitties (I have two right now), and know the director personally. They do so much more than just adopt cats out to good homes. They rescue and provide medical services including major surgeries to injured feral or abandoned cats, they support, feed, and provide shelters at several feral colonies in NH and MA, and provide foster care for cats in transition from living on the street to loving homes. They are always in need of funds to help support the feral colonies and pay for medical and other expenses.
You can read about the organization, see the stories of many of the cats that have benefited from their care, and read the latest edition of the newsletter (and, donate, of course) here:
As an avid reader and lover of all good things in the world, I always give to Worldbuilders! They have built a great community for people to do good in the world and I absolutely love Heifer International’s model. Please consider donating to them because all donations are matched up to $1.0 million.
Find out more at: worldbuilders.org.
Full disclosure: I am a freelance writer/consultant for this group, but that’s part of how I know what amazing work they do.
Now, more than ever, the Earth needs a good lawyer, and that’s what Earthjustice does. They help ensure that the government enforces environmental laws and regulations that keep our air and water clean. Their lawyers are enormously committed, as is the rest of the staff.
As the beloved Peanuts character Linus says, “happiness is a warm blanket!” Spread that happiness in your own community by donating to Project Linus. We gather new handmade blankets for children in need – in hospitals, shelters, or just in need of the warmth of a security blanket. If you like to craft, be it sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, etc., donate a blanket to your local chapter. Monetary donations for chapter expenses are of course also needed. Go to Projectlinus.org for a list of chapters (there’s at least one in every US state) and information about how to donate.
The team I train for the Austin Marathon with raises money for the Austin Children’s Shelter. We take care of administrative costs, so 100% goes to benefit abused & neglected kids. And it’s tax-deductible. The stories of how the kids end up there will break your heart & make you wonder what is wrong with humanity; but the success stories… those will make you believe. Please donate, any amount is great but if you give $25 or more, you’re entered in a drawing from my team (mostly gift cards so only really cool if you’re from Austin or planning to visit): http://www.teamfxaustin.org/newsite/sponsor-a-runner/
I would like to put in a word for two charities.
Griffin Education Solutions uses songs to help grade school children learn basic facts about the world. They started with science and math but are now branching out. (Full disclosure: Griffin Ed has paid me royalties for the rights to record a few of my songs.).
The Jefferson Rural Clinic is a clinic for people in Jefferson and Granger counties (in Tennessee) that provides free medical and dental care for people too poor to qualify for the ACA (aka Obamacare.). (Full disclosure: I volunteer there two mornings a month.)
Awaken is an organization in the Reno, NV area that helps woman who are being sex trafficked. They offer housing and relocation to women who want out and educate the community about the myths of the industry and how big of a problem it is world-wide.
I’d like to give a big shout out to The Pongo Fund, which is an Oregon-based pet food bank. When people are in dire need, sometimes unconditional love from a dog or a cat is all they have. If it weren’t for Pongo, many people would lose that too. My wife and I volunteer there, and it’s hard to put into words both the level of need and depth of gratitude we experience.
From the website:
The Pongo Fund is Oregon’s only full-time charity focused on fighting animal hunger. Because hungry people have hungry pets. We work tirelessly to reduce shelter populations and keep families together by providing emergency pet food assistance to anyone in honest need. Protecting beloved family pets from the suffering, starvation, surrender, abandonment or worse, when a lack of food, but not a lack of love, is their only enemy.
This is somewhat local, but Boston-metro-area folks might want to look at The Food Project – http://thefoodproject.org/
The Food Project builds urban and rural vegetable gardens and train teens from all over the Boston area in leadership, business, and sustainable agriculture; they donate a lot of the produce to food pantries.
Child’s Play is a charity founded by the creators of Penny Arcade to help out children’s hospitals and domestic violence shelters around the globe. They focus on making the experience in these places more bearable for children by providing the hospitals with games and toys; things that so often are the first to be deprioritized when budget time comes.
I’ll also plug the Games Done Quick charity marathons. These are twice-yearly speedrunning marathons that pass donations directly to one of two charity organizations. Awesome Games Done Quick is the winter event that starts at the beginning of next month and will be benefitting Prevent Cancer Foundation, while Summer Games Done Quick is usually around July and in the past has benefitted Doctors Without Borders. It’s an extremely fun week-long event where talented members of the speedrunning community play video games as fast as possible, often doing things you didn’t even suspect was possible in the game.
Ink and Locket are a not-for-profit small press with a focus on bringing more diversity to children and young adults. Their main website is here: https://inkandlocket.com/
They are also currently running a kickstarter for an anthology of fantasy and sf stories with warrior heroes that just happen to be somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It won’t be out until early next year, so it isn’t available for a Christmas gift, but it might be just the thing to cheer up January.
(Full disclosure: I do have a story in the anthology, but what I’ve seen of the rest of it looks good too)
Thank you for all these fantastic suggestions! I would suggest Remote Area Medical, which provides 100% free medical, vision, and dental care at their “pop-up” clinics all around the US. They also partner with local organizations to bring their three day clinics online in big cities. They started their work in Central America but I think have since focused more on the US, especially Appalachia. From what I can tell they operate on a shoestring and provide needed relief for people with no other resources. I’ve volunteered for them in the past and donated for years. Given that our incoming Overlords simply don’t believe in providing access to medical care for anyone in America except themselves, I’m pretty sure RAM will be kept busy as Congress dismantles what few supports there are for free or reduced price care….
And another vote for Heifer International! I’ve been a volunteer for them for years and years.
I would also vote for Heifer International. If you are looking for stocking stuffers for the fairly young you can get them there. Putting a donation into the hands of someone still impressionable can make all the difference.
If you live in the Boston area, the Boston Area Gleaners saves food from local farms that would otherwise be plowed under. The produce is harvested using volunteer labor and sent to a local food banks.
I recommend my favorite ferret shelter, Ferret Association of CT, located in Hartford.
I also recommend you give to your own local shelters and not necessarily to someone else’s favorite.
I will be donating to more charities this season, and in the coming years; this is a great list to work from, thank you.
I have a more personal request that will help a family dealing with grief and uncertainty this Christmas, and in the coming months. It feels odd asking for charity for only one family, but I’m going to stick my neck out and ask, anyway.
I lost a co-worker last weekend to an unexpected illness and will miss her greatly. Coleen had just purchased a new house this last summer for herself, her paraplegic son, and her two grandkids; one that is wheelchair accessible and has room for the kids to grow and their family to congregate. When her son was disabled by a car accident a couple of years ago, she took him and her kids into her apartment, so she could care for them and keep them together as a family. She was an accounts payable clerk – she didn’t make a lot of money – but she worked very hard to purchase this house, and now the family needs some help managing the expenses so they can keep it.
They’re not asking for a lot; their goal is only $10,000, and they’re more than halfway there. Any help will be gratefully received. Thanks.
And if you have a child/grandchild/friend of the family in school, think of http://www.DonorsChoose.org, where teachers set the budget for they projects they need in the classroom. You can choose a neighborhood classroom wherever you love, a low-income classroom where the needs are greatest, or support a topic (STEM, for example) at a school. It’s all up to you, and the funds go directly to a project the teacher needs.
Girl Museum, http://www.girlmuseum.org, is the first and only museum to celebrate girls and girlhood. If you look around museums, you don’t see a lot of girls, and most of the women are objectified in one form or another. We exist to advocate for girls, share their histories, and remind people of the value and power of girls.
We’re virtual, and completely run by volunteers. Our annual budget is VERY low, and all the money we do get goes to programming, securing digital rights, and sending people to conferences to present and network. We don’t need that much to run, but fundraising is a struggle, and getting grants is insanely difficult, as we’re neither fish nor fowl: we’re not a brick-and-mortar museum, so we don’t get grants there, and we’re not a direct outreach organization, so we don’t get grants from that end, either. But we are passionate, dedicated, and determined to give girls a voice.
Courageous Kitchen works with refugee children in Thailand, where they have little state support: http://courageouskitchen.org/about/
It continues to boggle my mind that children go to school in this country lacking books, musical instruments, microscopes for basic science, and on and on. And that teachers keep fighting the good fight to get the tools they need to teach and inspire them. My favorite charity is https://www.donorschoose.org
Teachers put together projects for which they are seeking funding. You can pick and choose where and to whom you want your $ to go for books, instruments, etc. Teachers and students write you thank you notes and cards. It’s amazing. Check it out!
There are many worthy food banks, pet shelters, and museums in every major metropolitan area; I think it’s worthwhile to keep those contributions “local’.
That said, I personally prefer the [local] meta-food banks that provide to the individual small pantries that might otherwise not get visibility. (In Colorado USA, that’s Food Bank of the Rockies)
On a more global level, +1 for Heifer International. I’d also like to call out to a lesser known group, Airlink.
From their site:
Airlink.is a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits.
Conceptualized in 2009, Airlink was established by aviation professionals serving within the ISTAT Foundation with the express purpose to facilitate a broad partnership between commercial aviation and nonprofit community. The intent of our founders was to utilize commercial aviation capacity on scheduled air carriers to support NGOs in their humanitarian relief efforts – all at relatively low cost to the airlines and nonprofits. Our first mission – response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – was a huge success, and set the stage for Airlink to become the major player in disaster response logistics and transportation that it is today.
@scalzi, thank you for doing this each year. It always reminds me of why I find it worthwhile to make contributions: Being Poor, by John Scalzi
Help spread science, education, and technology in Africa through “Science Missionaries”! http://www.sciencemissionaries.org/
Coral Restoration Foundation: http://www.coralrestoration.org.
Corals are the building blocks of our oceans. They protect our coasts. They are going extinct.
CRF is the largest coal restoration organization in the world. They replant and rebuild major reefs. They are using cutting edge science to help protect the strongest genetic strains for the new world that humans are creating.
Most people reading this will take clean water more or less for granted. That’s not how it is through a shockingly large chunk of the world, though, and one of the organizations doing something about that is charity:water.
Please consider them if you are in a position to help out, because providing clean water to someone without it can be a very literal gift of life.
Another international cause I try to support is Doctors Without Borders:
I will also second the nominations for Heifer International – sustainable animal husbandry that enables people to not just earn a living but help others.
In charities closer to home, I routinely donate to my local community services (http://www.svcommunityservices.org for those of you in the area), and Planned Parenthood (and will second their earlier nominations).
I also donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Thanks for reading and donating!
Oh, and Second Harvest Food Bank!
Please consider assisting this lovely person who’s in very precarious health and is in critical need of funds. Her mother’s gofundme post is here: https://www.gofundme.com/2jkmpbus
There are so many wonderful and deserving organizations listed here, but if you can spare even a few dollars for this ‘charity of one,’ it would make a huge difference.
Thank you for this opportunity to signal boost, John.
Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary in NSW Australia takes in and rehabilitates injured and orphaned wombats until they can be released into the wild.
For more information http://www.sleepyburrows.com.au/
I highly recommend The Mad Housers in Atlanta, GA. https://www.facebook.com/mad.housers.atl/ They are 100% volunteer, no overhead, and they make an immediate difference in people’s lives.
“Our primary endeavor is building temporary, emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, religion, age, family status, sexual orientation, etc.”
“The Mad Housers believe that if a person has a secure space from which to operate, they are much more capable of finding the resources to help themselves.”
What this means in practice is that they build, in just a few hours, a small lockable living space for someone who’s been living in the woods or on the street. A hut costs only about $400-$500, and the new residents help build them. Their main fundraiser is going on now and every bit helps.
A couple of months ago, I lost a much loved young pet to FIP. I was so distraught, my family encouraged me to adopt a shelter kitten, to give another little animal a chance at a good life. After looking at websites and making visits to a lot of (somewhat) local shelters, we brought home two tiny felines, which now basically run the house.
One of these kittens was adopted from the Van Buren County Animal Shelter, the smallest and most rural shelter we visited. It was also the best kept, with the best cared for animals. This shelter is now facing closure, as the Clinton, Arkansas city quorum court has decided not to enforce the city’s agreement to pay half of the shelter’s operating costs. The shelter has started a GoFundMe account to raise money. This is meant to raise public awareness and show the quorum court that there is public support for the shelter’s cause.
I’m disabled, on a fixed income, and have two expensive teenagers. I usually don’t give money to charities for those reasons. But I’m giving $5 to the Van Buren County Animal Shelter’s GoFundMe account, and have asked my family and friends to do the same. Could you find it possible to send at least $1 to this fund?
Has there ever been a time when our country needed more understanding of and respect for science? (Probably not)
Is there a state that needs to address this more than North Carolina? (Well, maybe)
Is there a finer, scrappier, needier science museum than the Asheville Museum of Science? (No way)
They’ve just relocated and expanded to meet the needs of our community, here in Western North Carolina, and while their doors are open, they’re going to need a lot of help to finish bringing all of their exhibits online. Please donate if you can.
Please consider supporting new voices in speculative fiction: donate to either the Clarion (UCSD) or Clarion West (Seattle) foundations. Or WHY NOT BOTH?
Also, if you’re a writer, note that both workshops opened applications yesterday for their 2017 summer sessions. Details on the respective web sites.
Natik Esperanza is my “Smile” charity at Amazon! It is a FABULOUS organization that partners with women in Chiapas and Guatemala to help encourage economic independence (in addition to donating outright, you can help by shopping in the catalog full of the women’s handcrafted items). From the website:
Natik means “we sow” in Tzutujil Mayan and “our house” in Tzotzil and Ch’ol Mayan, which was chosen to highlight their two primary areas of engagement (Guatemala and Chiapas), as well as their support for vibrant community-based organizations through transformative international relationships. They chose the hummingbird as the perfect symbol for Natik for its small size, responsiveness, and incessant energy and determination.
Natik is committed to needs-driven, sustainable development solutions that maximize the potential for reciprocal relationships between students and professionals in the US and their dedicated counterparts in communities in Chiapas and Guatemala. Natik’s direct approach to challenges, flexibility in trying new strategies, and willingness to change keep them light-hearted, invigorated, and constantly moving forward.
Natik is a fabulous organization and I can’t recommend donating to it strongly enough! http://www.natik.org
Childhood Cancers are massively underfunded, getting only 4% of federal government funding and virtually nothing from the private sector. Kids can’t just take scaled down versions of adult treatments. In many cases, the childhood variant is quite different from the cancer in adults. Kids that “survive” will often face long term survival issues like secondary cancers, heart problems, and neurological problems. 1 in 5 will not survive.
Please consider funding childhood cancer research. St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the largest funder of research after the federal government – they find the best research at institutions around the United States and with international partners.
This particular fund under the umbrella of the Foundation is in memory of my son Alan, who passed away at the age of five in 2013.
Twin to Twin Transfusion (TTTS) is a rare medical condition that affects just 5-15% of identical twin pregnancies. However, it is deadly if untreated (70-80% fatal for both babies) and not well known. The TTTS Foundation https://tttsfoundation.org helps get information to parents that need it and get them in touch with the doctors that can help.
Full disclosure – I’ve helped them since our own TTTS pregnancy which occurred when the surgery was still experimental. (Both babies survived and are healthy adults today thanks to the surgery.)
The Puppy Rescue Mission. The charity is dedicated to bringing dogs befriended by soldiers back to the US. Started originally during the Afghanistan war, it was created after 3 courageous dogs saved a camp of 50 soldiers. These soldiers had befriended the dogs during their service. These “battle buddies” have been brought home by committed bunch of volunteers in various locations overseas. Many places, like Afghanistan, see dogs as a nuisance and nothing of value. They are shot for target practice, starved, used for fighting. Go here: http://www.puppyrescuemission.com/
Secondly, New Mexico’s largest no-kill animal shelter, Watermelon Mountain Ranch. There were thousands of lost, abandoned, and stray animals being euthanized every year in New Mexico. Together with a group of like-minded volunteers, in 1996 WMR began to rescue and find homes for animals in Sandoval County and Albuquerque. Since that time, their rescue efforts have expanded to most of the counties in Central and Northern New Mexico. From its small beginnings to the present time, WMR has rescued and adopted out over 100,000 animals into loving homes. Go here: http://www.wmranch.org/
Another vote here for RAM (Remote Area Medical). Here’s their link https://ramusa.org/ and here’s a recent Guardian story about their work
I’d urge you to consider a donation to Partners in Health (pih.org). PIH works to build health systems in countries like Liberia and (particularly) Haiti. Unlike Doctors Without Borders (to which I also donate) PIH’s focus is staying in place and working to strengthen local partner organizations.
Although I like to give to local charities, money makes the biggest difference when it is spent in the poorest places to help the worlds poorest people. For this reason, I’ve tried to seek out a charity whose mission is focused on such people. PIH has been my choice of such a charity.
For those who would like to see the end of Alzheimer’s, consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Association. Save the brains!
Bread for the World. http://www.bread.org
Bread lobbies Congress for policies that support the provision of food to those who are hungry (and for interventions that change the contexts creating hunger), both in the US and around the world. It’s a Christian organization, which I hope won’t stop others interested in ending hunger from contributing to the cause. (Oh, and I should note that because its primary activity is lobbying, donations to Bread are generally not tax deductible.)
Consider joining the American Civil Liberties Union — “For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” https://www.aclu.org
Since people have already mentioned my other favorite charities, I’ll recommend the U.N. Foundation’s Nothing But Nets, which sends treated nets to protect against malaria to regions in Africa that need them. $10 sends a net and saves a life; they frequently have matching campaigns, so your money results in 2 or 3 nets per $10. Read more about it here!
Many of my favorites have already been mentioned, but to add to the generous giving:
The Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/ whose mission is to protect our US Wild Places. Established by John Muir three grandmothers ago, they do good work and will need our support under the new administration.
Random Acts: http://www.randomacts.org/ whose whole raison d’etre is to send more kindness and compassion into the world. Through them I also became aware of IMAlive: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/imalive/ which is a crisis response network that operates through instant messaging for persons who can’t cope with the idea of calling a suicide or crisis hotline.
The Fair Elections Legal Network is a nonpartisan voting rights organization which is badly needed now, in the wake of the weakening of the voting right’s act (and many operatives’ (of one party) stated goals of strategically suppressing the vote in order to produce electoral “wins.”
From their website http://fairelectionsnetwork.com:
“The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan voting rights, legal support and election reform organization whose mission is to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies. FELN works to improve overall election administration through administrative, legal, and legislative reform as well as provide legal and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.
Originally formed as a limited liability group of lawyers, FELN now employs a staff of attorneys and advocates whose mission is to eliminate barriers to voting and improve election administration across the United States. Working alongside other national and state groups, FELN works to make the processes of voter registration, voting, and election administration as accessible as possible for every American and has a special focus on student and minority voters. To this end, FELN engages in a wide variety of advocacy efforts; FELN produces reports and fact sheets, provides testimony to legislatures, conducts trainings and seminars for organizations and their supporters, and works directly with local election officials and Secretaries of State to ensure that the voting rights are protected. For more information on the work FELN has done and continues to do, visit our latest updates and resources page.”
Georgia Border Collie Rescue.
We are a new group, about a week old, and have no website yet so email me at pjcamp at gmail dot com.
Georgia is very persnickety about rescues and appears to be trying to turn a profit on it. I belong to rescues in neighboring states who sometimes rescue from Georgia, but it has gotten increasingly difficult. So I and a couple of other people created one in-state.
This is paying back for me. There was a Border Collie Rescue in Georgia years ago and I got my first two dogs from them. But it folded. Those dogs are gone now, but getting them was the most remarkable thing that ever happened to me.
I wrote a story about it back in 2000 called A Dog’s Taile:
When my ex-girlfriend, Sandy, and I moved to Georgia from Myrtle Beach, just over 2 years ago, she to Athens and myself to Atlanta, she promised her kids that they could each have dogs of their own. This is a long story, but bear with me, it is going somewhere important.
They took a long time to decide what kind they wanted and ended up with Border Collies because Trey (her son) saw one on TV, a beautiful long-haired black and white dog, running dramatically across a field, herding sheep by whistled commands and doing amazing things. It said they were smart, and smart is good, and it said they were affectionate, and that is good too, and it said they were very active, which might be good, so Trey wanted a Border Collie. Sandy reasoned that hyperactive children needed hyperactive dogs. I found that reasoning obscure.
I’ve been a dog person all my life, even though I haven’t had a dog since I was a kid. I know people who rent sometimes get dogs and then discard them when they have to move, but I could never live with myself if I did that. Dogs have a deep emotional commitment to the pack, and that sort of behavior would be nothing short of betrayal. Owning a dog is a commitment for the life of the dog, sometimes longer. I tried to explain to Taylor and Trey that being smart has problems as well as advantages, and you need to be prepared for them and be sure of your commitment ahead of time because it isn’t right to back out. Border Collies are indeed smart, and also highly active. That means they are a load of fun, and easy to train, but it also means they get bored easily, and a smart, bored dog will invent jobs for itself. This is why Border Collies are notorious for bad habits, frequently are given up by overwhelmed owners, and aren’t happy unless you work with them all the time. Bad habits are not endemic to the breed; they just need something to do. They are high maintenance dogs, with high rewards to be sure, but they are a lot of work. Besides, being herding dogs, they are given to some behaviors, like nipping, that others breeds don’t do much and that many people find undesirable.
You know kids. With the best of intentions, they got the dogs, a brother and sister, and, once they were no longer puppies, proceeded to ignore them pretty much of the time. What they really wanted was Platonic dogs who could be relied on to take care of themselves for the most part and, once in a great while, be available for hugging and petting and perhaps the occasional ideal fetch. The dogs, Sugar and Bam-Bam, fell into some pretty destructive habits, like creating a cratered moonscape in the back yard and eating the drywall. I did what I could. When I was in Athens, I would always take the dogs for walks, or runs in the park. I managed to redirect their digging behavior. I would try to train them in some basic obedience, and I showed the kids how to do it. But I was only there one day a week, at most, and that simply isn’t enough to have a huge effect. Nobody else held up their end of the deal.
Nevertheless, I loved those dogs. It surprised even me. They were so sweet, and eager to please and would do whatever you asked of them. All they really wanted was for someone to do something with them. It didn’t matter what. They just needed a job and they were happy. I looked forward to working with them. I loved them so much I even figured out a way to work their picture into a middle school science book that I was writing at work.
Sandy broke up with me in February of that year. Apparently, she had been thinking about doing so for about nine months, while I had been thinking about how she and I could afford to get married and live in the same place. Stupid me. During that time, she also borrowed my entire retirement savings at the time, about $15,000. I was mad about that for a very long time, and depressed over losing Taylor and Trey. But I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and in the end the only thing I miss is the kids, not the money. It was used to take care of the people I cared about, and if money isn’t for that purpose then what good is it? If I had it to do over, I think I would do the same. Sandy’s motives and behavior really have nothing to do with mine.
But I also missed the dogs terribly. I used to have their picture as wallpaper on my computer monitor at work, but I took it off at that time. I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, knowing that I would never see them again.
By August, I had bought a house and, figuring this was about as stable as I was ever likely to be, I started planning to get a couple of dogs. I wanted two because I learned from Sugar and Bam-Bam that it is good for the dogs’ mental health. They are pack animals, and it helps to have part of the pack always nearby. I was in no real hurry, though, to get dogs because my new house had no grass in the yard, and I wanted to give it a chance to grow.
However, I had learned a lot about Border Collies from Sugar and Bam-Bam and they taught me a lot about myself as well. I had always sort of toyed with the idea of getting BC’s, off and on, but after a little reading I always got nervous about the effort that would be involved with such active dogs. What I learned about myself is that, with Border Collies, that effort is not work. Work is what I do at Tech. Being involved with my guys is playtime. So I started seriously thinking about Border Collies.
I looked in the paper, but I just can’t afford $400 or more per pup. So I was talking with my sister , who used to raise miniature pinschers, and she said that breeders will sometimes have dogs that they had intended to breed or show but for one reason or another would be unable to do so. Sometimes, they will give them away for a song just to get them a good home. She told me I should get a copy of Dog Fancy and just start calling some Border Collie breeders, ask around, tell them my sister was in the biz, see what developed.
I didn’t have time to run to the bookstore right away, however, so instead I searched the web to see if there were any local breeders with web pages. After plugging “Border Collie Georgia” into Google, one thing that turned up, aside from breeders, was a group called Border Collie Rescue Society of Georgia, a home and adoption service for abandoned dogs. I thought, “Well, that would be pretty responsible — get a dog that nobody else wants, one that really needs me.” So I looked at the pictures of dogs that they had for adoption.
The last two on the page were a brother and sister, 2 years old, who had been seriously neglected, and had only each other. They were separated in their foster homes for the first time in their lives, and she cried for her brother every night. The guy who maintains the web page was asking for someone to adopt both, if at all possible.
They were named Sugar and Sam, and I thought “I know those dogs.” I’d know them anywhere. Sugar is the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen; I’d recognize her elegant lines from a thousand miles away. And Bam-Bam is always examining the world, as it it were his own private TV. And there they were. Same markings, same posture, everything. I was stunned. Someone could easily have changed Bam-Bam to Sam to make it less silly (original name chosen by an 8 year old boy) but close enough for the dog to still answer to it.
So I talked to the guy that night. Screw the grass. He told me that they were very loving dogs, who liked to walk up and put their head in your lap to be petted, and the girl gets your attention by pawing your arm, as if to say “Hey! Hey! Pay attention.” My guys did that all the time. He said they loved to be outside. Sandy threw them out of the house at 6AM and didn’t let them back in until 10PM. Then, they had to go in their crates. They only ever knew outside. Inside was the inside of a crate. Open the crate, and they always made a beeline for the door. I asked him where they came from. He said they were taken from a family in Winterville by the Humane Society They had chewed up some stuff (one of the bad habits my guys developed from being left alone too much), and had in consequence been kept shut up in crates for months. Let out long enough to go to the toilet, then back in the crates. I have reason to believe that Sugar has been beaten. She recognizes all the major curse words and is deeply distressed by them. She is terrified by anything resembling a broom. The people in Winterville had been given the dogs by a relative who lived in Athens.
Sandy lived in Athens. She has an aunt and an uncle in Winterville.
I was 99% sure these were my guys. He brought them over one Saturday at lunchtime, and I found out for sure then. They poured out of the back of the truck before he could even get the leashes on and climbed right into my lap. They were all over me. They were my guys. They spent the first week I had them curled up on the sofa, as close to me as they could possibly get, obviously secure for the first time in a very long time. There is residual damage, especially with Sugar. She is a very different dog. She is terrified of loud noises, thunder (which she can distinguish from fireworks and can predict from the smell of rain), things that are shaped like a broom, dog crates, and people that are sitting on the floor. She also knows all the major curse words. And it is the actual words, not the tone of voice, which she knows. When I get mad at the computer and curse under my breath, she gets very submissive and apologetic. She thinks I am angry at her. Curse loudly, and she runs away and hides. But she is also overjoyed to see me, still follows me wherever I go, and tries to climb up in my lap when she is tired. She also knows her brother by name. Ask where he is, and she will go and get him. Sam shows less damage. He has learned to be much less active than he used to be. I guess crates will do that to you. But he is still always watching and thinking about the world around him. Give him a chance and he’ll station himself on the porch and study the world in detail. He’s also convinced that the rules only apply when the people are home, so there’s that.
There is an element of destiny in the twists and turns of this story. Just when I can finally afford a house of my own (I hadn’t even made a mortgage payment yet), so I am as secure as I can ever be in having dogs, is the very moment when my guys need me the most and I can help them out. Then, by pure chance, I just happen to stumble across their pictures at exactly the right time. It is as if they were meant to be with me. There is an old saying that God looks out for children and animals. I haven’t much believed in deities for some time, but perhaps there is an oblique truth embedded in the folk wisdom. I hope so. It would have to be good for my guys, after all that neglect and horrible confinement, to go live with the one person who always had time for them, who always did things with them, whom they know and trust, and who will keep them safe and happy for the rest of their lives. So much in my life has gone awry recently, but being able to do this for such sweet dogs would make up for the lot of it.
Dogs are good karma.
And these are my guys.
Somebody rescued my dogs. They did it out of the goodness of their heart. Now I do it for other dogs. Because dogs are better than people.
A charity that I feel strongly about is called Camp Wyandot and works locally in central Ohio. It was created after the Central Ohio Council of Camp Fire [Girls and Boys] decided to dissolve their bonds with the national Camp Fire organization.
Camp Wyandot is the name of the residential/overnight camp located in the Hocking Hills of Ohio which has been hosting campers since 1928.
Their mission is to provide “an inclusive nurturing environment for youth to have fun, make friends, serve others, and explore the great outdoors.”
They also had a day camp called Camp Otonwe (now Camp Wyandot Day Camp), also hosted at the Camp Wyandot location starting last summer, and Wyandot Explorer clubs.
I first went to Camp Wyandot in the mid-70s with friends and fell in love with it. I continued as a camper until I could become a counselor-in-training, and then was a counselor for 3 years.
It was wonderful seeing the joy in my campers’ faces when they learned to build a fire and then cook a meal on it and getting wet and muddy in Clear Creek.
(No affiliation except as an alumni)
Planned Parenthood, Habitat for Humanity, and your local Head Start, as well as your local food bank or community pantry. All places I put my money.
My kids and I make crochet blankets for Project Linus. Project Linus gives handmade blankets to kids in hospitals and other needed areas. The Project Linus site can connect you to a local group so your contribution can benefit those in your own community. If you’re crafty this is a great outlet (no matter what grandma says there’s a limit to how many blankets one person can own) to share your creations year round (we usually turn in our blankets outside of the holiday seasons because the supply is greater at christmas). If you aren’t crafty you can donate supplies to your local chapter or team up with a crafter to keep them going and make it a joint gift. (we’ve made over 24 blankets from donated, left over yarn in the last year) We’ve also started making hand knit scarves for adults that we’ll turn in to a local clothing bank; again, either craft on your own or supply a crafter. Please keep in mind that the ‘needy’ get bombarded this time of year by all of those guilted into do gooding. Better than contributing just this season; make a commitment to contribute all year long. After all, people in need are rarely in need just once a year.
Additionally, my family is in need. After falling on harder times we had something precious stolen from us. For an easy, free contribution, please share this link, read our story and join in the search with everyone you know. It would make a great holiday story to ‘Bring Her Home’.