Sharing the Joy

One of my favorite aspects of the holiday season is the giving spirit, with a massive number of Americans opening their hearts and their wallets to help others this time of year. An estimated one-third of all charitable giving in the United States happens during the month of December and more than 10% occurs within the last three days of the year.

If you are looking for ideas about how to express your generosity this season, we have compiled a list of highly regarded organizations that would be more than happy to hear from you:

  1. Emergency aid and disaster relief: Disaster can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. This week our friends in Kentucky are reeling after tornados tore through the state leaving a trail of heartbreak and devastating loss. When tragic events such as this occur, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way are typically among the organizations at the forefront of relief efforts.
  2. Hunger: The number of people who do not have enough food to eat is on the rise around the world, and the USDA reports that more than 38 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. Many organizations fight hunger in the United States in local communities, often through our religious organizations, but some larger ones that operate nationally and internationally include Feeding America, No Kid Hungry and World Food Program USA.
  3. Literacy: Despite the need for greater language and literacy skills in a global economy, these skills were on the decline in the United States even before the pandemic. Local community groups support literacy efforts within their communities and can usually be found through our public libraries. Organizations that promote literacy skills nationally and/or globally include Reading is Fundamental, World Literacy Foundation, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and Reach Out and Read.
  4. Arts: The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to the arts and the artists who create them. From the shuttering of museums and performance venues for a significant chunk of time to the decimation of their fundraising efforts, the arts community is struggling and would welcome your support any level. Again, local community arts organizations are a great place to start, such as the Boston Center for the Arts or Arts Alliance Illinois, but Americans for the Arts and Allies in Arts are two national organizations.
  5. Nature & animals: Considerable evidence suggests that spending time in the natural world is essential for our health and well-being. And there are many great organizations dedicated to helping protect and provide access to nature. One favorite is Rails to Trails Conservancy, dedicated to creating multi-use trails out of abandoned rail tracks. The Sierra Club, Appalachian Trial Conservancy and The National Park Foundation are also great options for supporting our natural world.
One of the first successful rail-trail conversions in the US, the Illinois Prairie Path just West of Chicago is a worth exploring any time of year.

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