‘Tis the Season

Who’s the most difficult person to buy a gift for on your list? You know what I mean: the uncle who has more stuff than he needs or desires, the friend who likes to travel light, and neighbor whose is taste so specifically her own it’s almost impossible to choose something she’ll really like. The perfect gift for those people could be a donation made in their honor. A cause matched with the person’s interests takes things to the next level, but if even if you’re a lefty with a Tea Bagger cousin or a fur lover with a vegan best friend, there’s a cause out there that’ll leave you basking in the mutual glow of holiday generosity. Here are some of my own favorite organizations; in this era of tightened belts, remember that any amount will do. And even if you’re through with this year’s spending, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about these organizations.

BEADS For Education There are many ways to contribute to BEADS. You can shop for gifts made by members of women’s beading collectives; proceeds are used to fund the women’s groups and BEADS programs. Gifts start at $15 and most are no more than $30. If your budget is larger, you can sponsor a Kenyan girl’s education, which might be the most rewarding gift you can give yourself. You can also simply donate.

Airline Ambassadors Years ago, on a flight from JFK to SFO, I chatted with flight attendant Nancy Rivard, and she mentioned me a little non-profit she’d started. Since then, Airline Ambassadors has grown into an organization that does big things, like delivering humanitarian aid to children around the world, escorting children to hospitals, rebuilding or delivering supplies to areas hit by disaster or poverty. You can make a donation and even join a mission.

Polaris Project’s vision is simple: “a world without slavery.” It’s one of the largest organizations of its kind, with numerous programs for combatting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Schoolbags For Kids So much beauty in a simple idea: you buy a very cool schoolbag for someone you know, and another schoolbag filled with supplies is donated to a child who needs one in India, Thailand, or Belize. (May I brag a little? One of the founders is a fan who has become a friend. Bravo, Kalon!)

Project VoteSmart is a completely non-partisan organization dedicated to the idea that a knowledgable citizenry is an empowered citizenry. With the click of some keys you can find out everything you need to know about candidates and elected officials: biographies, voting records, issue positions, public statements, campaign finances, and more. This is seriously valuable information; there’s no cost to use the site, so donations keep it going.

The Jazz Foundation Jazz musicians play well into old age. One of the things that’s always nagged at me is a concern for some of the elders who are still with us; after all, a lot of gigs pay no more than they did three or four or five decades ago (and I’m talking actual dollars, not inflation-adjusted ones). How are these folks in their seventies, eighties, nineties getting by? In many cases, not very well. This is where the Jazz foundations steps in, with programs to provide emergency housing and assistance, pro bono medical care for uninsured musicians, performance opportunities for elder masters, and more. Read about some of the people the JFA has helped.

Society of Singers Similarly, SOS provides support to singers in need. Programs include financial aid, case management and referrals, scholarships, and more.

Potters For Peace is a network of potters, educators, technicians, supporters, and volunteers that works with clay artisans on ceramic water purification projects. Want to see the beauty of a low tech miracle? Potters for Peace travels the world teaching potters (often rural women) how to make low-cost ceramic water filters that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.

When I heard about Planting Peace’s deworming project I was struck by several things: the widespread the problem of intestinal parasites is, the devastating effects, and the relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. A one dollar donation pays for deworming sixty seven children; when’s the last time you spent a dollar that made such a huge difference? Of course you can multiply that dollar by any amount and help even more people. And if you’ve got $20 a month to spend, you can sponsor an orphan’s housing, education, medical care, and more.

For the activist on your list, an Occupy Wall Street calendar, with profits donated to the movement. Swiss photographer Juan Carlos Hernandez came to New York to photograph jazz events, and ended up also spending a lot of time at Zuccotti Square. A track from my CD accompanies the promo video for the calendar, or go straight to the store and get a 50% discount with the code HOLIDAYSUPERSAVINGS34 if you buy before December 31.

Happy shopping, happy giving.

One Response to ‘Tis the Season

  1. htwilliams22 says:

    What great information! Thanks, Andrea, for bringing to my attention nonprofit groups that I’ve never encountered before — and all of them doing such important work!

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