‘Tis the Season: Tra La La!

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.11.31 AMNow that our national Annual Day of Fighting Over Flat Screen TVs is over, it’s time for my annual ‘Tis the Season post. If you’ve been on my mailing list or followed this blog (which you probably haven’t, since I’ve neglected it horribly), you know that at about this time every year I list some of my favorite organizations in the hope that if you’re thinking of giving someone the gift of a donation made in their honor, getting an end-of-year tax deduction, or simply sparing a few make-the-world-a-better-place dollars, you might consider these worthy beneficiaries. This is miles away from being any kind of comprehensive list; rather, it includes a few of my favorite organizations I think merit greater recognition (and donations!). Here’s a bonus: instead of (or in addition to) donations, you can buy gifts of jewelry and other cool items at Potters for Peace and BEADS for Education; look for their online stores.

This year’s post is dedicated to my father, Boris Wolper, who left this world in July and who, by example, taught me a few things about sharing — a gift for which I’ll always be grateful.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.36.24 AMAirline Ambassadors International
Years ago I took an American Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco; I was flying with my dog, and as soon as we landed I took her out of the case she’d been in for hours. One of the flight attendants saw her and started a conversation, and we chatted all the way from the plane to baggage. She told me about a little non-profit she’d started; I thought it sounded interesting, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. What I didn’t know at the time was what a rock star Nancy Rivard is, or that what “began as a network of airline employees using their pass privileges to help others” [would expand into] “a network of students, medical professionals, families and retirees who volunteer . . . [to] escort children in need, hand-deliver humanitarian aid to orphanages, clinics, and remote communities, raise public awareness and involve youth in humanitarian efforts around the world.” As if that’s not enough, AAI has created an industry-wide global plan to involve airlines in fighting human trafficking.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 1.44.52 AM BEADS for Education
“To educate a girl is to educate a village and ultimately a nation.” Sponsor a Kenyan girl’s education, support alternative coming of age rites, or shop for gorgeous beaded handicrafts (scroll to the bottom of the site and click on “Products”) made by the Dupoto Women’s Group, many of whose members are mothers of the students; profits go back to the women and are a primary source of income. (And HERE is the link to their store.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.34.32 AMCenter for Constitutional Rights
The CCR “is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” From attacks on dissent to racial, gender and economic justice, they get things done. I don’t know where we’d be without CRC.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 2.19.12 AMFirst Book
First Book “is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.” As a lifelong library nerd, that’s something I can get behind. A $10 donation means four new books find their way to children who need them. Donate by December 31st to triple the power of your donation.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 2.14.54 AMThe Jazz Foundation
You might be surprised to know that a lot of gigs pay no more today than they paid fifty years ago (I’m talking about actual, not inflation-adjusted, dollars). I find myself wondering how the musicians who were around then, who could make a good living with that kind of money, are managing now, when they’re older and have to deal with health issues, inflation, and other challenges. JFA Emergency Fund helps jazz professionals (especially older musicians, who may have no health insurance, pensions, or retirement funds) through hard times.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 2.11.00 AMPlanting Peace
Planting Peace has “a variety of projects ranging from large-scale international efforts to grassroots initiatives.” A donation of $5 allows them to deworm 333 children; they’ve already reached 7.9 million children in Haiti alone. Deworming may sound like a small thing, but it can have an enormous impact on a child’s education, health, and quality of life.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 2.07.32 AMPotters for Peace
One of the things I love about Potters for Peace and Planting Peace (above) is that they’re great examples of low-tech, relatively small, very achievable solutions to enormous problems. To me, that’s the definition of miracle. “Since 1998 Potters for Peace has traveled the world teaching the fabrication of a low-cost ceramic water filter that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.” (And HERE is the link to their store.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.31.56 AMProject Vote Smart
I’m such a believer in this invaluable resource for U.S. voters. Project Vote Smart provides comprehensive, unbiased, non-partisan information about the political process, elected officials, candidates, etc. In 2012 I spent a week in Montana volunteering at the Great Divide Ranch, PVS’s main headquarters. You can read about my adventures (and learn a bit more about PVS) here.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 2.05.19 AMBixbee
All the organizations listed above have 501(c)(3) status, which means your donations are tax-deductible. This is the one exception; Bixbee is a business, not a charitable organization. But it’s included because even though you won’t get a tax deduction if you shop there, your purchase generates a donation by the company, whose tag line is “One here, one there.” (Not only that, but a friend of mine is the co-founder!)  Buy a really cute school bag for a little one on your shopping list, and another schoolbag, this one filled with school supplies, will be donated to a child in need. I notice they’re offering free shipping on most orders till December 31!