29 December 2013

A Fond Look Back...

One of the best parts of writing Causes & Effect this year has been learning about so many great charities. Sometimes, I’d start the day knowing which organization I wanted to give to, but, often, I’d decide what I wanted to write about and then I would have to search for a charity that fit the topic...and rarely could I not find something that seems absolutely perfect. Since I didn’t want to give to the same group more than once, that often meant I had to find a local charities, especially when it came to dealing with natural disasters, like the Moore, Okla. tornado. 

I could keep my daily giving going for years and never duplicate the same charity there are so many worthwhile ones out there. If, like me, you ever get down and feel like evil is gaining on good, I assure you, it is not. There are people helming and volunteering at organizations for free or for very little money who are dedicated to making the world a better place, one person, one block, one city, at a time. 

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, but after this year, I believe there are so many people fighting to make the world a better place that I feel so encouraged. Their spirits are so strong. They are unbreakable.

Having said that, the need is so vast in so many different area that it’s daunting to realize just how much help is needed and it’s a reminder that no giving is wasted. Every little bit of help, no matter how big or small, makes a difference. 

Here are eight charities I gave to this  year that were among my favorites. I’m mentioning each one here and linking back to my original post about the organization: 

*The Giving Spirit: The LA-based organization provides the homeless with backpacks and duffel bags twice a year packed with basic supplies. Though The Giving Spirit works with local shelters, less than 20,000 of Los Angeles’ more than 60,000 homeless are in shelters, so The Giving Spirit drives around to distribute the bags to homeless people living on the streets. TGS was started by two people and it shows that a small group can really make a difference. 

*The Faith Community of St. Sabina: St. Sabina is a Catholic church in one of city’s poorest, predominantly black neighborhoods, helmed by Father Michael Pfleger. He is a firebrand. He is white and he adopted two sons,  much to the dismay of the Catholic church, and fostered another, whom he lost to gang violence. He bucks up against the Catholic Church often and is quite controversial, but I don’t know if I found anyone this year who I so admired. He is a warrior who speaks truth to power about what amounts to no less than a war on black young males. He is one of my new heroes whom I hope to meet one day. 

*Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs: Clearly the cutest creatures I wrote about all year, the K9 Comfort Dogs, usually golden retrievers because of their gentle, friendly nature, go to areas where people can benefit from having a cold nose, four paws, a wagging tail and a warm heart around. The dogs, who bring teddy bears with them, were on hand the first day children went back to school at Sandy Hook Elementary, and are often among the first to go to the site of a natural disaster, as well as visiting people in nursing homes and hospitals. 

*The Pablove Foundation: Some of the charities that broke my heart, while earning my deepest admiration, this year were ones started by parents who had lost children to cancer or other diseases. I was humbled by their ability to take the worst thing that could happen to a parent and use their energy to help others going through the same thing. Pablove was started by Jeff Castelaz and Jo Ann Thrillkill// after they lost their son, Pablo, to cancer when their boy was six. They started Pablove to fund pediatric cancer research and the ways they raise money are very creative, from children’s photography contests to cross country rides to other fundraises that honor and lift up Pablo’s memory every day. 

*Ahimsa House: My friend Carole Loftin turned me on to this organization. Ahimsa House provides shelter for the often overlooked victims of domestic abuse: four-legged creatures. According to the Georgia-based organization’s website, many women stay in abusive situations because they are afraid the person abusing them will abuse their pet if they leave for a shelter, the vast majority of which don’t accept pets. Or the abuser threatens to kill the pet if the abused says she is leaving and she, therefore, stays keeping herself and her pet in peril. Ahimsa works with domestic violence shelters to care for animals for up to 30 days while their owners are in the shelters.

*Puppies Behind Bars: There was no other charity that seemed as perfect as this one when it came to meeting so many different needs. Inmates trained puppies to be service dogs for wounded soldiers. The dogs live with the inmates from the time the pups are 8 weeks old until they are 20 months old. It’s the ultimate win-win charity. The inmates are rehabilitated by learning to care for the dogs, the dogs go on to a life of service, and a hero’s life is made easier by the presence of the dog. Puppies Behind Bars is in three states now and I really hope it expands. 

*Southern Coalition for Social Justice: As my beloved home state of North Carolina underwent a disturbing swing to the far right this summer in ways that will harm the state for decades, I discovered the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before; maybe that was because the Southern Poverty Law Center looms so large in the south. SCSJ fights for voting rights, human rights, criminal rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice. SCSJ estimates that the NC’s new prohibitive, discriminatory voter ID bill will affect around 319,000 North Carolina voters, including Alberta Currie, the face of their campaign to overturn the Voter ID bill. Currie has voted every year since 1956, but has no birth certificate since she was born at home. Without a birth certificate, she can’t get a photo ID, according to the new rule.

*Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation: I spent two weeks at Topsail Island, N.C. in September and, by sheer dumb luck, it was at the height of sea turtle hatching season in this Sea Turtle Sanctuary. Those little turtles transformed my trip into a nice working vacation into something much more. When they hatch-or bubble over- dozens of the little babies struggle to reach the ocean and begin their difficult journey. They stand a 1-in-1000 chance of making it through that first year and about a 1-in-10,000 change of reaching adulthood. I was infatuated with the baby turtles and the Karen Beasley Center, which rescues turtles and rehabs them. The highlight of my trip was the sea release of a 300-lb loggerhead the Center had nursed back to health over a four-year period. 

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