Windows-Live-Writer-Condiments-for-Christmas_9AAB-condiments_thumbEach year during Thanksgiving weekend I put together my holiday shopping list.

And each year my list gets a little shorter as some friends and family say, “Let’s forget the gift giving; please donate to a good cause on my behalf.”

Not a bad idea, giving to those that really need it and where your gift can truly make a difference. If you’ve opened your mail in the last few weeks, it’s easy to see there are mountains of charities needing our help.

For some, deciding which charity to contribute to is not a decision at all. Many people choose a certain one because it’s close to their heart.

For example, if your father battled Parkinson’s or your sister survived breast cancer, you are more likely to contribute to charities that helped your family during such difficult trials.

Sometimes nature helps make our decision. Recently my mother in-law lost her house in Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately she was in an assisted living facility at the time, but her house—built by her husband 50 years ago—was her only remaining asset.

There were too many natural disasters this year affecting hundreds of thousands of people, including droughts, tornadoes and rivers overflowing.

Charities that help people to clean up and rebuild do important work.

For others, contributing to a local charity is important. Often your money can go further with small groups, and it can be exciting to make an impact in your own backyard.

Contributing to a local charity increases the chances you’ll have firsthand information about the group you are supporting. You may read about their progress in the Acorn or by attending one of the charity’s events or educational programs during the year.

Figuring out how much money you can donate is the next order of business.

According to the ABC show “20/20,” three-quarters of American families donate to charity, giving $1,800 each, on average. According to Arthur Brooks, the author of “Who Really Cares,” “The two most generous groups in America are the rich and the working poor.”

Whether rich or poor, there are lots of ways to give to charity, including gifts of money or personal items like clothes or used household goods. You can donate during an event like a walk-athon or a toy drive. Or you can volunteer your time.

It struck me this week just how simple some charitable needs can be.

Many of you know Senior

Concerns runs the local Meals on Wheels program. Recently we asked some of the volunteer drivers if there was an unfilled need with the Meals on Wheels recipients.

Meals on Wheels recipients are homebound, often on a very limited income and heavily dependent on the nutrition provided by the hot lunch and cold dinner that come every day but Christmas.

I was humbled by the response. Over and over the drivers told us that condiments are what Meals on Wheels recipients need: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressings, jams and jellies.

It seems our meals are nutritious and enjoyable, but they don’t come with condiments.

Their second request was just as humbling—warm socks. A new pair of warm socks would be a welcome gift during the holidays.

Such simple requests.

If you would like to help a local senior who receives Meals on Wheels and purchase some condiments and/or warm socks, Senior Concerns will be accepting donations until Fri., Dec. 14 at our offices, 401 Hodencamp Road, Thousand Oaks.

If you would like to include a note to the Meals on Wheels recipient with your donation, please feel free.

Letting someone know you care is part of the beauty of the holiday season.


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