Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide: for the Soul

Today's gift guide is a little different, though very near and dear to my heart. Every year that I can manage it, my holiday gifts to my friends are less things to makeover the outside, and more to makeover what's inside. I make donations to various charities in my friends' names, and we all get to benefit from the karma;) I want to highlight a few of my favorites here, but I urge you all to give to any charity you can this holiday; there are so many deserving, and there is so little to go around this year!

First up is Heifer International: This charity helps developing countries support themselves with gifts of livestock. You can actually buy a family a flock of 20 to 50 chicks that will provide them with enough eggs to make a living on, or buy a goat, a cow, or a llama to provide milk, meat, or fur for weaving. These are concrete things that really make a difference to a poor family trying to survive in often depressed and drought-ridden areas.

Next up is the American Cancer Society: This one is a no-brainer for me; I have cancer in my family, so I try to give to a cancer charity every year, and this is one of the best. ACS hosts hundreds of events around the country to educate people about the risks of cancer and highlight those beating the disease, and they raise millions every year towards helping find a cure for it. They also have support groups for those living with cancer and their families, and offer invaluable resources for anyone faced with this diagnosis.

The Jewish National Fund is a personal favorite; my brothers are Jewish and I planted a tree in Israel through JNF for them a few years ago. JNF does amazing work to educate people about the issues facing Israel through schools and advocacy programs, has extensive agriculture and irrigation initiatives, and even sponsors security programs for those traveling through Israel. To date they have planted over 240 million trees.

Finally, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, is probably one of my most dear causes. My whole life I have had rescued animals around me, and their presence has so enriched me that I cannot imagine living without them. There are so many animals in this country who are abused, neglected, hungry, cold, and homeless, and they cannot speak for themselves and ask for our help. The ASPCA's motto is: We are their voice. Since I can't go out and personally beat up every person who abuses an animal, much as I would like to, I give money every month to the ASPCA.

Please donate to a charity this holiday season, even $10 helps. You get a write-off on next year's taxes, but you get a good feeling that will last a lot longer. What charities do you support?

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