Every year, all over the country, local rags get tapped to do a holiday gift guide, and it’s a sham. If you’re working for some big corporate pub, you might get a stereo or a TV or if you review computers, you get a discount on a computer, but the whole thing is basically one long advertorial and the only reason you’re seeing what you’re seeing in those pages is because the people behind the scenes have whored out either themselves or their editorial space in trade for free product. There. I said it.
We’ve done it too in the past, and we’ll probably do it again at some point, because it’s just the way the world works and a free pair of headphones is a free pair of headphones. Somehow, though, this year the whole idea just seemed too perverse. I’ve watched the last couple months as product press releases have piled up and gone unanswered, and every time I’ve seen another “must have” useless gadget pitch hit my inbox, it’s been more and more disheartening to think of all the time, money and effort wasted in the creation and acquisition of such trash. And it’s not just “consumerism is bad, blah blah blah” or “corporations are bad, blah blah blah,” it’s that there are better things that can be done, on any level you want to evaluate the word “better.”
So when it came time to have the inevitable holiday gift guide discussion this year, our esteemed publisher Diane Casazza suggested that instead of the usual smattering of slop, we compile a list of charities that people—on the off-chance they have either a job or any money—can donate to in their loved ones’ names or their own name. Dedicated intern Roz Smith did the grunt work putting together the list, I tacked on the self-righteous intro, and here we are. All of these organizations have been vetted and give as substantial a portion of their donations as possible to the causes they represent, and we picked some local, national and arts-based groups to get a good mix. Happy Holidays. —JJ Koczan
American Foundation For Suicide Prevention
Up until 1987 there was no research on prevention for suicide. Then The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention (AFSP) changed that and for the last 24 years have been raising funds to educate, provide treatment and research suicide. The AFSP also sponsors many events such as the nationwide Out Of The Darkness walks and marathons. With an average rate of a suicide-related death every 14.6 minutes, any amount of money that could be donated to this charity could save someone’s life and help someone’s relative or friend get the help they deserve and need to see that life gets better. For more information on the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, visit afsp.org.
Big Brothers And Big Sisters Of America
A century in the making, Big Brothers And Big Sisters Of America (BBBS) have been striving to help today’s youth find support and work to realize their full potential. BBBS still hold their purpose to provide role models (bigs) for these children (littles) who will enrich their lives and leave a positive mark on their future. The program is now available in all 50 states and has even branched out to 12 countries. By donating to Big Brothers And Sisters Of America, you’re not only helping children in your own state but you’re also impacting the lives of other children all over the United States. The participants of the program are less likely to get involved with drugs, alcohol and gang related crimes. Your donation is helping match up a big brother or sister with their little counterpart to help guide them to a brighter future. For more information, please visit bbbs.org.
Children Of The Night
Founded by Dr. Lois Lee in 1979, Children Of The Night is an organization that is determined to bring home and rehabilitate children who have fallen victims to sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Not only a caregiver, Dr. Lee has also pushed lawmakers to enforce stricter laws for those who exploit innocent children. Those rescued are given a second chance at childhood, to grow and learn in a safe place without the fear that they once felt. No donation is too little to help save a child’s life from the horrible effects brought on by being forced into sex work. To learn how you can get involved, go to chlidrenofthenight.org.
Community Foodbank Of NJ
It’s the holiday season and while many of us will be enjoying home cooked meals, there is a vast number of families that cannot. The Community Foodbank Of NJ not only provides food and meals for the underprivileged in NJ, but also supplies children with backpacks and other items needed to further their education. Cash donations are welcome but one can also donate non-perishable food items to a local food drive or volunteer their time, which is also greatly appreciated. Going hungry should never be an option in the Garden State. Head over to njfoodbank.org to find out how you can get involved and make a family’s holiday a happy and yummy one.
Brooklyn Academy Of Music
The Brooklyn Academy Of Music (BAM) is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The performing arts center is the oldest continuously operating one in America that strives to bring the community together on a local and international level through productions that were originally written abroad. By supporting BAM not only is one supporting the growth of cultural diversity, but also encouraging the education and artistic exploration in the community. If you would like to make a donation to the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, please visit bam.org.
Habitat For Humanity
Imagine that you didn’t have a roof over your head. For some, that is life, and something Habitat For Humanity is trying to change. Under the watchful eyes of trained supervisors people in a local community can come together and repair and build comfortable and affordable shelter for those who don’t have it. Since 1976, Habitat For Humanity has helped over 2 million people worldwide gain one of the simplest necessities in life. To get involved, you can donate money, an old car, buy from their web-store or even volunteer with your local Habitat For Humanity group. For more information on how to get involved, go to habitat.org.
American Red Cross
Since its founding in 1881, the American Red Cross has been providing aid to who have face horrible tragedies. This holiday season, while celebrating with family and friends think of those whose loved ones may be sick and in need of the precious nectar of life: Blood. Every two seconds, in the United States alone, someone needs blood, which means over 38,000 blood donations are needed on a daily basis. Just one pint of your blood could help save someone’s life. The process is quick, painless and rewarding. Not only does the Red Cross need blood but during a time of crisis blankets and water are also in demand. Money donations are also accepted. To find out where the nearest blood drive or donation center is, visit redcrossblood.org.
Founded by the members of the Christian rock band Jars Of Clay, Blood:Water Mission set out to provide clean drinking water for 1,000 communities in the sub-Saharan region of Africa after a connection was made between the lack of clean water and HIV/AIDS. Their 1,000 wells challenge was started in 2005 and was completed in 2010. Those who volunteer with Blood:Water Mission hold their core values of community, responsibility, integrity, dignity and teachability close to their hearts. By simply donating or becoming a community builder you are helping to ensure the health of the people of Africa and are helping to restore hope in their lives. Visit bloodwatermission.com to find out how you can get involved.
United States Fund For UNICEF
Halloween shouldn’t be the only time that one donates to UNICEF. The organization strives to save the lives of children all over the world who are faced with issues that most of us here in the United States don’t have to deal with. The unnecessary deaths of children because of lack of adequate nutrition, clean drinking water and even proper medical care is unacceptable. By donating to UNICEF, you are helping a child get the proper vaccines and providing them with nourishment so that they are not on the brink of starvation anymore. Not only does UNICEF provide these services, they also aim to stop trafficking and exploitation of children as well. Even the smallest donation can help save a child’s life. Donate today at unicefusa.org.
Equality Now fights for the human rights of women and girls all over the world. Their main purpose is to raise awareness and help those who have fallen victim to discrimination in the law, sexual violence, female genital mutilation and sex trafficking. Right now their main focus is in countries Africa and the Middle East where women have little to no say in what happens to them. One of the most devastating situations that Equality Now deals with is the fight against female genital mutilation, which is the removal, or sealing of the female genital region. This process is not only cruel but also has serious health risks. By donating to Equality Now you are helping to ensure that the rights of safety, health and integrity remain intact for these people. For more information and to make a donation, visit equalitynow.org.
Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts
Almost 5 million people a year visit the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts, which houses 12 resident art programs. Through the help of donations, Lincoln Center is able to host 400 different productions a year of the classic and contemporary variety. Donating to the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts will help guarantee that their quality programs will continue. This winter, you can even name a seat after yourself or a loved one in the center’s Alice Tully Hall, one of the newest concert venues the city. Visit new.lincolncenter.org for more information and for a list of upcoming events.
In 1952, Mrs. Charles W. Collier founded Young Audiences after watching many children express an interest in art after Yehudi Menuhin, the famed violin player, performed in her home. Since then, Young Audiences For Learning is making great strides to ensure that art education is part of the youth of America’s curriculum. Art education is an important part in a child’s development; it helps children learn self-expression and teaches them how to work with others. There have been many studies that link academic improvement on standardized tests and the decline of drop-outs to art education. By making a gift to the Young Audiences Arts For Learning Endowment Fund, one is helping to make sure that art programs continue in schools across the nation. To learn how you can get involved with Young Audiences, visit youngaudiences.org.
Clean Ocean Action
Clean Ocean Action is determined to make New Jersey and New York’s public beaches a cleaner, healthier place to be, not only for those who visit there during the warm months but also the creatures who call its waters home. COA has made vast improvements to ensure the quality of the water is safe; they have closed down eight ocean dump sites and made sure that those laws that help protect the ocean against pollution are enforced, and those who violate those laws are penalized accordingly. If one is more of a hands-on type, COA is always looking for new volunteers to raise awareness of the problems our beaches face. Through beach sweeps, educational events and, for the creative types, photography and videography, there is no reason not to get involved. Or if cash donations are more your thing, COA gladly accepts those as well. To find out how you can get involved, check out cleanoceanaction.org.