Sunday, December 6, 2015

Charlottesville Area Holiday Giving Guide, a Time to be Grateful

The biggest time of the year for non-profits to receive donations is during the Holiday Season. As the year nears to an end, its time to get those tax deductible donations to deserving charities.

As your heart strings are pulled with each mailer and online story, its time to reflect and be grateful for what you have. Living in this gloriously beautiful and bountiful county we take many things for granted. 

We often forget that even in our lowest of low moments there is always a worse situation. Try to imagine living in a tent for 20 years evicted from your homeland, persecuted because of your religion or race. 

The last time war was declared on our homeland soil was in 1941 on the attack of Pearl Harbor and I for one have never lived in a war zone. To live day in and day out with bombs raining down on you is unimaginable. 

I often feel the potential for happiness in our country is squandered without thought of a worse scenario. Be grateful for your blessings and be thoughtful of others during this season of giving. There are families that barely find the resources to pay the monthly rent living in fear of eviction and forgotten animals that are chained and allowed to live their entire life alone outside.

I look for charities that work day in and day out in the trenches and use their funds to really help those they service. If you haven't quite found the right charity, here are a few to add to your list for consideration.

My mom. Respect and love of pets starts early. 
I tend to lean toward animal rescue groups as I have a history of helping animals and feel they can't defend for themselves so are most worthy. Giving directly to a local Animal Welfare Agency is the way to go. The larger national groups DO NOT annually trickle funds down to local groups and often your local Humane Society / SPCA receives no government funding. They need your help the most. If you prefer to not give cash, they often take supplies - food, cat litter, etc or operate Thrift Stores

My shelter babies. No chain zone at my house!
Two of my favorite Charlottesville, VA Animal Welfare groups merged together under the Voices for Animals umbrella. Houses of Wood and Straw (HOWS) is a tireless volunteer group that helps the most desperate animals that are chained outside 24 X 7. If it were up to them, no animals would be chained but sadly Virginia law finds this perfectly acceptable, even though for years rescue groups have attempted to change this. HOWS does what it can, given the law, to upgrade dog houses, expand fenced areas, and to pay for medical treatment of often the emaciated or the forgotten.

There are is an Animal Rescue for just about any pure breed pet imaginable. One that I volunteer for is Siamese Cat Rescue Center. One would think a Siamese Cat would never enter an Animal Shelter. But they have saved over 10,000 Siamese from death. When I was the Director at the Pulaski County Humane Society (another good charity that tirelessly operates on a shoe string budget) they saved many of our Siamese cats from death. It runs like a well oiled ship and there is a dedicated shelter at the Virginia Chapters home.

Forget the Yard Sale, haul it to the SPCA!
I tend to get motivated at the end of the year to start clearing out. Your local SPCA Thrift Store is a great place to donate your used items. If you prefer to give to a non-animal based charity several of the more well known agencies pay their CEO's huge annual salaries. So give some thought as to who can really benefit from your castaway treasures. 

There has been a lot of talk in the media about refugees and fear of allowing a potential criminal into our country through this program. Since my move to Charlottesville, I've been fortunate to meet refugee families and learn of their plight. One particular family arrived several years ago after living in a tent for 20 years. They didn't even understand the operation of a window, much less a stove! Arriving in December wearing flipflops and summer clothing, and not speaking one word of English. Imagine for one moment if that is all you had. Ok, so do it again, visualize if that was all you had and you were placed down into what appeared to be MARS. If a criminal wanted to enter our country, this program would be the last port of entry as it can take from 3 years to 20 to escape your tent city! To make a cash or item donation to help a part of our population that is truly destitute upon arrival, the local International Rescue Committee is the agency which coordinates the arrival of refugees.

For a host of reasons, sometimes years can pass without employment. This, understandably, can lead to depression or loss of a home. A few years ago we went to a plant sale and discovered Our Community Place in Harrisonburg, VA, a vibrant community center that helps anyone that needs assistance, and several days a week it provides free meals.

To find an international charity, Give Well rates charities.

A little goes a long way and it is absolutely true that if we each gave just a little, it could make a world of difference. Happy Holidays and spread the joy!


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