Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's the season to give

The Holidays are about so many things. I love all the good cheer that's in the air. People seem to be in a happier mood and are friendlier. The weather, music, and decorations only set the mood. And I love spending time with my family and friends, eating, drinking, and being merry. Presents are always a good thing, but I have to admit that I love giving as much as I do getting. There's something about seeing a smile that I caused that makes me happy.

But now is also the time to give back. So many of us have been blessed throughout the year with good health, a job, and people who love us. It's important to show how thankful we are for that, but helping those who don't. If you're thinking about how you can give back this year (or even if you're not), below are five charities that I support in one way or another.

1-800 Suicide - As I wrote about in an earlier entry, mental health affects almost all of us and yet still has great stigma attached to it. Everyone at some point in their life is sad about something, and the people at 1800 Suicide and Hopeline are there to help those in their moments of need. There are hotlines for veterans, students, mothers with postpartum depression, and teens. But despite the great work they do for mental health rights and many individuals, they are often as risk for shutting down because of lack of funds.

Your Local Animal Shelter - I'm sure there are many breeders out there that treat their animals with compassion and love, but why buy from a breeder when you a. never know what is going on behind the scenes and b. there are many animals in animal shelters waiting for loving homes. Stuck in a cold cage for an indeterminate amount of time, many with the looming threat of euthanasia in the background, shelter animals make just a wonderful companions as pets from a pet store or breeder. Our two cats came from a kill shelter, and I later found out that our tuxedo cat, Batman, was in immediate danger of being put down. I am so grateful that we were able to save him in time because he is one of the most loving animals I've ever had.
Because both of our cats came from the same shelter, and we had such a good experience with them for the past two Christmases we donated supplies to them. Most shelter websites have lists of things they need (pet food, treats, toys, old sheets and blankets, pet beds, paper towels, cleaning products, sponges, shoe boxes, etc.). Whether it's extra stuff lying around the house, or brand new from Petsmart, they shelters need it all.

Project Joy - In the county where my parents live, there is a local charity organization called People to People. People to People gives to the poor in the county and around different Holidays organizes huge drives to provide for holiday meals and clothing, among other things. During this time of year they have what they call Project Joy, which attempts to provide a nice holiday for children who's parents can't afford to buy them gifts. Their goal is to make sure that Christmas happens and every child is visited by Santa so you adopt a family and buy toys, books, clothes, and whatever else the child needs/asks for. Even though when most people think giving to the poor means giving to starving children in Africa, there are millions in America who live under the poverty line. Children living in poverty need help, no matter where they live, but it has always been especially important to me who live locally and need help and now that there are people in my life that I care about who have actually had to hear the words "Santa didn't come this year," it is that much more important for me to make sure as little children hear that as possible. I'm sure there are many other local charities which aim to fulfill this same goal, but if you can't find one in your neighborhood Toys for Tots is always a safe bet.

Salvation Army - Even though the history of the Salvation army was to convert sinners into the saved, now the SA performs widespread good works to many different people who need help from a variety of problems. They go to disaster areas and stay for years (as opposed to weeks or months), help soldiers (like they did with my Grandfather in WWII), and provide help in local areas as well.

Huntington's Disease - Huntington's Disease is a hereditary and degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure. If your parent has it, there is a 50/50 chance of inheriting this dominant gene that slowly diminishes one's physical and cognitive abilities, and overall emotional health. Huntington's Disease affects the lives of entire families (emotionally, socially and economically) and there is great stigma attached because of the disabilities and psychiatric symptoms that accompany it. I had learned about HD years ago in school, but because better acquainted with it through working on a research project at my old job. I heard many stories of how pervasive and devastating the effects of the disease are, and shocked at how few people know of its existence and how little funding they get. I know there are more common diseases that out there that have a greater chance of affecting me and my life, but I feel that this is one disease that is often overlooked and just as important as the rest.

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