Politicians can debate what plan will stimulate the economy out of recession. Analysts can examine the unemployment rate, note that claims are up these past three months, and thus determine that there is still no light at the end of the economic tunnel.
None of that rhetoric matters much to someone who doesn’t have a coat or who can’t pay the power bill. It doesn’t matter to the mom sweating over how she is going feed her family the next week. It doesn’t matter to the family who can’t come up with the rent or whose house is in the last stages of foreclosure.
What concerns these people most is the continued existence of the local nonprofit entities that keep them alive from day to day. And if you are one of the lucky few keeping your head above water in these trying times, the following nonprofits are in need of donations more than ever. Our donations help them provide for those in need.
The Regional and County Food Banks
Most of the charitable entities on this list draw from the regional and county food banks. Where else can you purchase a wide variety of nutritional items at roughly 18 cents a pound? Your local food bank will probably have a website where you can donate money. However, you might want to also consider donating things like your eBay profits or your grocery store rewards points. If donating food, you may want to consult the website for a list of items the bank needs most at that time. Your local coordinator can provide information as to how to orchestrate a successful food drive. Find your local food bank here.
Backpack Pals/Meals on Wheels
Is there anything as upsetting as a kid being excited about school because he or she knows that there is where they’ll finally eat? Or a senior citizen with diminished mobility and on a fixed income who can’t get three squares a day?
Backpack Pals ensures that needy kids are fed over the weekends and during the summer months. It is usually operated by the local school system or a third-party nonprofit attached to the school system, and it is funded entirely by private donations and sometimes grants. This program always needs money, and it most certainly needs volunteers to fill the backpacks with food.
Meals on Wheels relies entirely on monetary donations as well as volunteers to handle delivery. Basically a meal package consists of something ready-to-eat, a cold meal to eat later in the day, and a breakfast meal for the following morning. Many times the volunteer is the only person with whom the senior recipient will socialize all day. So, volunteering for Meals on Wheels gives you an opportunity to make new friends in the community.
The Salvation Army
Everyone knows The Salvation Army for its bell ringers vigilantly tolling for your spare change at the grocery store or on the street corner. Perhaps you have visited one of its thrift stores. Since 1852 the Salvation Army has been tending to the needy, but chances are your local branch is rather bereft of cash right now. Many smaller branches can no longer help people come up with the rest of the rent – the Army use to be subsidized with FEMA money, but that is no longer the case. The Salvation Army still helps cover a past due power, water or gas bill so your household continues functioning.
The Salvation Army has a website where you can simply punch in your credit card number, but if you want to make sure your donation is serving the local population, go directly to your neighborhood branch. Ask the coordinator what he or she needs most. Most likely it will be money and clothes. Bigger branches in cities like Fayetteville, N.C., also operate a homeless shelter and thus need volunteers. During the holidays they need secret shoppers to fill the simple Christmas lists of needy kids.
The County Coalition
Your local coalition is a Swiss Army knife of services. It helps people cover their rent and their utilities. Many help ensure people get their essential prescription medications, and they ensure emergency dental and medical care is available. Essentially, a coalition is a crisis agency that supports individuals between when financial loss is incurred and when federal aid finally kicks in. Coalitions provide people with transportation to medical appointments and job interviews if need be. Additional programs can include services that educate the public about food and nutrition, about how to do taxes and about how to apply for Medicaid and federal student aid. Regardless of the size of the population your coalition serves, it is – at best – staffed by only a handful of paid employees. Everyone else is a volunteer, and so that is what coalitions need most in addition to funds and clothes. Find one in your area.
Churches and Places of Faith
Find a faith-based organization that engages in a coat drive, food drive, or coordinates with other faiths to offer shelter for the homeless on a rotating schedule. They need money. They need food. They need clothes – especially now that winter is here.