How to Help Others During the Holiday Season
by David Sung
While we’ve all heard the saying “It’s better to give than to receive,” and most of us agree at some level, there’s nothing so effective at reinforcing the idea than the winter holiday season. When we look under our Christmas tree at big, bright packages, we understand how fortunate we are compared to a lot of people – even if we have temporary struggles.
We know there are people out there every day worried about where the next meal will come from, how they’ll clothe their children, and where they’ll find a warm, safe place to sleep that night. But, we don’t always know how to help. So, Cash Store has looked at the most common and the best ways for you to give this holiday season, and to be confident that it will do the most good.
Local Food Banks and Shelters
Holiday season in the United States obviously coincides with cold weather. Homelessness is never fun, but winter brings more people into shelters than any other time of year. Your local shelters can use donations of food, clothing, blankets and cash. The Salvation Army operates many shelters, and it’s a good place to start donating if you’re not aware of any specific shelters or needs in your area.
Likewise, hunger is a year-round problem in many communities, but the winter season is the time of highest demand for help with food. Local food banks can use your food donations, monetary donations to fill in gaps of specific food needs, as well as your time in boxing food and necessities for distribution. Feeding America is one of a few national organizations supporting local or regional food banks, and it is rated 4 of 4 stars by Charity Navigator. You can trust that your donation will be used wisely.
Speaking of Charity Navigator, if you have a connection to or a passion for a certain type of charity, Charity Navigator rates and reviews charities to make sure your money goes where you think it will go. You can search charities by location or by type and decide where you would like to contribute. The needs that many charities try to meet simply don’t stop during the holidays – when many people might shift their giving to other places like food banks and shelters. Any time is a good time to give, but giving now at the end of the year can help charities enter 2014 with a solid financial foundation.
Places of Worship
When you know you want to give, but don’t know where or who to whom you should give, how do you decide? If you attend church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or another place of worship, the leaders of your place of worship can help. People from your community often come to their place of worship for help. When you give to yours, you know they’ll be able to use your donation to meet the needs of those people, whether they are food, clothing, shelter, or even to pay a gas bill in order to keep the heat on. Most religious institutions will allow donors to specify areas of ministry that a donation should directly support, or you can give in general and allow the leaders to decide how to spend the funds.
It’s always a little uncomfortable to think about the benefits to you from giving to someone else. After all, that’s really not why you’re giving. On the other hand, it’s not prudent to turn your nose up at a reduction in taxes, is it? Giving to any 501(c)(3) organization is a charitable contribution that is deductible from your federal income taxes. All you need is a receipt when you sit down with your tax forms or pass them along to your CPA. Most charities will give you a receipt in person, when you contribute online, or an end of year statement when you contribute regularly to a church or other charity.
However you decide to give, just do it. It will make a difference in someone’s life, and that ultimately is a benefit to everybody.
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