Friday Frivolity: The Reason for the Season

This Friday feels especially full of frivolity, as Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes my week-long vacation home to Texas.  I love the District and have had such a great couple of months but I’m looking forward to going home for delicious eats and quality family time.  With my vacation next week and Treat Yo’ Self-themed holiday party tomorrow evening, I finally feel filled with the holiday spirit.

Of course, living in the gravy-drenched heart of the Bible Belt, I would often spend this time of year accosted with reminders that there is a reason for the season.  I’m not particularly interested in the religious aspects (especially given Christmas’ pagan roots) but as the year comes to a close, I always find myself taking advantage of this time of year to remember how lucky and fortunate I am.  This blog, while fun to write (and hopefully fun to read!), is chock full of a lot of first world problems.  I often look internally to myself for this blog but in the spirit of the season, I wanted to look externally at the world around me and see if I can make a little change.

So, for this holiday frivolity, here are ten truly fantastic charities, all of which would make great gift options or give each of us a chance to pass along our good fortune.

1. First Book – A great charity that has donated over 85 million books to schools and youth programs that serve at-need children.  I grew up in a house that was full of books, so making sure every child has access to reading material is a favorite cause.

2.  Partners in Health – PIH focuses on providing universal access to primary health care, fighting disease as a means of fighting poverty, training community  health workers, and partners with local and national governments to further their reach.

3. Animal Advocates Alliance – The AAA is a great group that focuses on moving animals out of high-kill shelters and into safe, loving homes.  Even if you can’t take in an animal, AAA gives you a great way to show your love for man’s best friend.

4. Pencils of Promise – I love PoP – 100% of online donations go straight to their programs – and I love their approach to build schools.  Just $25 provides one year of sustainable education to a child in a developing nation.

5. USO – With their mission Until Everyone Comes Home, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact the USO has on the lives of the deployed and the military families waiting at home.  I love that the Wish Book lets you designate your donation for something that has a direct impact, like a phone call home or a care package.  (Also consider Give An Hour, which provides free mental health services to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.)

6. Drive To End Hunger – Over 35 million Americans over the age of 50 don’t have enough to eat.  AARP’s Drive to End Hunger initative works both with local food banks and food outreach programs as well as working one-on-one with seniors to make sure they get the nutritious meals they need.

7. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation – There are many worthwhile AIDS-related charities, but Glaser is one of the oldest and largest, with many great giving options, especially if you enjoy shopping for charity.

8. Nothing But Nets – A great cause with a simple goals – use insecticide-treated nets to help prevent the spread of malaria.  Make a $10 donation, 100% of that money goes to one net.

9. Breast Cancer Deadline – Again, there are many worthwhile cancer-related charities and as most of us have lost someone we’ve loved to cancer, I’d encourage you to give to a local organization working in your community.  However, for national organizations, I am most inspired by the work the National Breast Cancer Coalition is doing with providing scientists with the funding and the support they need to end breast cancer.

10. GEMS – The commercial and sexual exploitation of young girls and women is a cause close to my heart as well and GEMS provides a wide range of services across the country.  Not only do the offer prevention and education on the issue, they provide transitional housing, counseling, and legal assistance to those who need it.

For more information, visit these organization’s websites or search Charity Navigator or Charity Watch for a cause of your choice.

Happy holidays!