The new need – part deux.

Thanksgiving behind us, we are now officially in Buy This For Your Loved Ones season. The catalogs and newspaper circulars are fat and frequent, as all of American capitalism throws its weight behind convincing us that THISTHISTHIS! is  just the thing we need to purchase in order to effectively demonstrate our affection.

I love gifts — both giving and receiving them. I don’t even mind capitalism as much as a good liberal probably should. But this year, I am particularly struck by the disconnect between the incessant drum beat to buy more stuff — and the fact that so many of us can no longer afford what we actually need.

If ever there were a time to direct our funds to supporting not corporations but people, I believe this holiday season might be it. Climate change is progressing even faster than expected; thousands of military families grieve the loss of their dead (or struggle to adjust to the injuries with which their soldiers have returned home); one in four American children lives on food stamps. And honestly, though it certainly feels like this year is particularly bad, the human experience is always one of struggle and need — and, as the song says, we get to carry each other.

So, following you’ll find a short list of organizations that I personally like, to which you might consider directing some cash if you have it to spare, or think that maybe Aunt Bertha would appreciate the gift of charity as much as she might a new scarf. Needless to say, this is but a tiny handful of the worthy organizations and community efforts out there — just find something that’s meaningful to you, and give what you can. That warm glow really is the universe giving back to you….

But first of all! If you want to vet a charity, you can go to the Combined Federal Campaign at the US Office of Personnel Management, the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, and/or Guidestar to get trustworthy information about how the charity in question functions.

And now, my personal list:

  1. Heifer International: “Heifer International is a non-profit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance & sustainability” — on the theory that if you give a family a fish, they eat for a day, but if you provide them with a clutch of chicks….
  2. Mercy Corps: “Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities”— and they are often among the very first responders to any tragedy around the world. We sent them money during Israel’s assault on Gaza this past winter.
  3. The Heartland Alliance: “Heartland Alliance helps people living in poverty or danger improve their lives and realize their human rights.  Through our diverse programs, we serve people in the toughest of circumstances and that are the hardest to reach, including survivors of violence, torture, and war and people living in extreme hardship or poverty.”
  4. To show support for American troops and their families, Iraq and Afghanistan Vets of America (the founder and executive director of which, Paul Rieckhoff, is often a guest on Rachel Maddow’s show) would be happy to hear from you. The Department of Defense also has links to several organizations.
  5. Sierra Club: “Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States” (and my girl just gave herself a homework assignment to help the polar bears, and collected $30 to send them!).
  6. Israel/Palestine peace advocacy: This list is a good place to start
  7. … or if you want to combine your love for Mother Earth with your love for peace in the Middle East, go check out Friends of the Earth – Middle East.
  8. Hunger assistance: Feeding America — or, of course, your local food bank. (Don’t forget that $5 is a lot more useful to them than a few cans of food — they can always buy far more with your money than you can!)

Ok, it’s a start! Also, I always like the idea of giving presents that also serve to support communities in need — shopping at Ten Thousand Villages, for instance.

If you have any ideas you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.

We get to carry each other. Happy December!



  1. Thank you so very much for including Heifer International in your list of supported charities. We are humbled and honored by generous people such as yourself who support the cause of helping people — through the gift of livestock or training — pull themselves out of poverty and giving them the tools they need to begin building their own lives along with the lives of others in their communities. Thank you for giving people you will likely never meet hope and opportunity, for giving them access to food, to medicine, to education — to a future.

    Best wishes.

    Joedy Isert
    Heifer International

  2. Thanks, Emily, for including Heartland Alliance, we really appreciate it.

    I visited Ten Thousand Villages for the first time this weekend (was shopping at Vogue and it was across the street) and went home with a handful of new elephants and fair trade chocolate. 😉

  3. deeemer

     /  December 1, 2009

    Speaking of charities, I thought you would be interested in this. . .

    (I couldn’t resist!)

  4. Ayoshe

     /  December 3, 2009

    How timely, I had just decided to give my family a gift voucher for Kiva, and let them decide.