Friday, December 12, 2008

Give the Gifts That Keep On Giving

Because our little 800 sq.ft. Venice bungalow is already stuffed to the rafters with furniture, cats, dogs, and various travel keepsakes (I swear that didgeridoo was smaller in Sidney) my husband and I have long since given up traditional gift exchanges this time of year.

Instead we ask our friends and relatives to give donations in our names as gifts, and ask them to name charities we can donate to as well. It's a win-win for everyone: our friends get a little tax deduction at the end of the year, the relatives have one less name to angst about on their lists, and we avoid carting cratefuls of scented soap, Hummel figurines, and Thomas "Painter Of Light Crap" Kinkade dioramas to the local Good Will.

So this year, with a tough economy squeezing the charities and causes that can least afford it, doesn't it make sense to consider gifts that keep on giving, not re-gifting?

The following are some of my favorite causes and charities. Don't see anything here you're interested in? Try the Charity Navitagor to find thousands of different charities! Charity Navigator works to guide intelligent giving. They rate charities by evaluating their financial health, their organizational efficiency and their organizational capacity.


Donors Choose (Southern California) is dedicated to addressing the scarcity and inequitable distribution of learning materials and experiences in our public schools. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, like you, choose projects to fund. Their data base is searchable by state, county and city.


Marine Animal Rescue
As a scuba diver, this is an organization near and dear to my heart! For over 20 years, Marine Animal Rescue volunteers have come to the aid of entangled or beached whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea birds along the California coast. Marine Animal Rescue volunteers have rescued thousands of marine animals.

Los Angeles League Of Conservation Voters
The Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters (LALCV), formed in 1976, is the only environmental Political Action Committee in Los Angeles County. The mission of LALCV is to participate in the electoral process throughout the County of Los Angeles from an environmental perspective.

Santa Monica Bay Keeper
Founded in 1993, the Santa Monica Baykeeper's mission is to protect and restore the Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent waters through enforcement, fieldwork, and community action. We work to achieve this goal through litigation and regulatory programs that ensure water quality protections in waterways throughout L.A. County

The Jane Goodall Institute
The Jane Goodall Institute advances the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment for all living things. It's mission includes increasing primate habitat conservation, increasing awareness of, support for and training in issues related to our relationship with each other, the environment and other animals (leading to behavior change), expanding non-invasive research programs on chimpanzees and other primates, and promote activities that ensure the well-being of chimpanzees, other primates and animal welfare activities in general.


Feeding America
Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Each year, the Feeding America network provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.

Gleaners Community Food Bank
A distribution network which provides local non-profit agencies with a low cost, reliable source of food for hungry people in southeastern Michigan. The fastest growing segment of new "clients" come from the auto industry.


Habitat For Humanity
Habitat affliliates work locally in communities around the world to select and support homeowners, organize volunteers and coordinate house building.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community.

Heifer International
Give the gift of goats! Heifer provides gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially disadvantaged families around the world. Heifer works to ensure that the gift of each animal will eventually help an entire community to become self-sustaining.


Packages From Home
The mission of Packages From Home is to send care and comfort packages to deployed American military personnel who are stationed in active duty theaters around the world, as well as to facilitate activities that elevate morale of all veterans.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation
This nonprofit national charity works to meet unmet needs of the military personnel and their families in the areas of financial literacy, housing and support for the wounded.

The Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded warriors, raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, help them aid and assist each other, and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.

Fisher House Foundation
This program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America's military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.


If you want give the gift of time and service, check out these sites:

Food On Foot
Food on Foot began in March 1996 as one man's response to the hunger he witnessed among the poor and homeless of Hollywood. What initially began as the distribution of meals from the trunk of a car has grown through the dedication of its volunteers and now serves more than 500 meals each week to homeless, disabled, elderly and low-income adults and children.

LA Works
Our Volunteer Calendar offers over 60 team-oriented volunteer projects each month that impact the most pressing social issues in L.A. Projects include repairing wheelchairs, serving meals to the hungry, helping children with special needs, reading to kids, mentoring at-risk teens, providing companionship to seniors, landscaping parks and planting trees.

Volunteer Match
VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement. Our popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 61,000 nonprofit organizations.

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