The holiday season is all about spending time with family and friends, spreading cheer and love, volunteering, and meaningful giving. As you welcome the new year, consider the local charities below to extend a hand by volunteering or give back to the community through donations. All are suggested by the Catalogue for Philanthropy Greater Washington.
Veterans and Military Family
Serving for our country comes with a lot of sacrifices, which deserves the utmost respect. Our veterans and their families face many hardships that may include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), lost limbs, limited access to medical care, financial difficulties due to denied Veterans’ benefits claims, children struggling to cope, and unemployment. If not recognized, treated, and assisted, these situations can lead to homelessness and even veteran suicide, causing grief to their loved ones.
According to the , the number of unemployed veterans reached a whopping 370,000 in 2017. Although there has been a decrease in the rate of unemployed and homeless veterans across the nation this year, there were about 38,000 veterans experiencing homelessness, where nearly 23,000 of those were living on the street on a single night in January 2018 (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).
Named one of the “Best in America Independent Charities” for 2016-2017, the Veterans Consortium offers pro bono legal and other professional services to over 400 veterans every year to ensure that they receive the benefits and care they deserve. Your can provide a copy of federal veterans laws, rules, and regulations for a new volunteer, materials for psychological evaluations of PTSD, and training for one volunteer attorney.
The Friendship Place’s Veterans services aim for housing stability and homelessness prevention through rehousing, employment assistance, budgeting, and connecting to medical and mental health care. Since its establishment in 2011, the program has graduated nearly 2,000 veterans, 92 percent of whom have moved into permanent housing. You can to this charity to provide a SmarTrip card for travel to job placement programs, household essentials for one family moving into housing, and one month of support for free clinic.
Hungry and Homeless
One in three residents is at risk of hunger and nearly 7,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the D.C. area. A majority of these people face mental health issues, addiction, infectious diseases, respiratory and skin diseases, and even worse, starvation, hypothermia, and death. It is difficult to break the cycle, but with proper identification, treatment, and support, you can help save someone’s life.
Most of these homeless people are women and the Calvary Women’s Service is there to open its arms to them. The program helps 56 women every day to transform their lives by providing them with healthy meals, addiction recovery services, job training, housing, and more. According to their 2015 Annual Report, 70 percent of women were placed into permanent housing, 85 percent of women maintained their recovery from addiction, and 60 percent secured employment. By , you can provide for one woman a month’s educational classes, three months of healthy meals, or three weeks of addiction recovery meetings for all clients.
For over 30 years, Samaritan Inns has been combatting homelessness and addiction through a three-step program. The initial 28-day certified program provides individual and group counseling, education, and confrontation for men and women experiencing homelessness and addiction. The second four-to-six month program is the Transitional Living Program, where residents are required to obtain employment, learn management skills, and gain access to job training and health care.
The final step is the Affordable Housing Recovery program, where residents are offered drug and alcohol-free living quarters, provided counseling, and encouraged to develop leadership skills. 90 percent of the graduates are reported to be drug/alcohol-free, employed full time, and living in their home. Your can cover the house necessities of one client, diapers and food for one mother and her children, and 360 meals for one adult.
The Community Foodworks has been working towards an impartial food system. They provide support for low-income families to access healthy foods and create market opportunities for small farmers. By encouraging low-income families to shop at local farmers’ markets with the support of the D.C. FreshMatch and WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition programs, the organization manages to increase the purchasing power and healthy food consumption of those families. to the Community Foodworks doubles the purchasing power of food stamps for 10 families, provides two weeks of produce for 50 seniors, and grants four weeks of mixed fruits and veggies for 10 families.
Every morning at 6:30 a.m. from Tuesday through Saturday, Charlie’s Place opens its doors to serve hot meals for the hungry. Around 50-70 homeless and low-income individuals are given access to breakfast, washrooms, haircuts, nurses, bags of lunch, and clothing every day. Last year, the venue served over 15,000 meals a week and distributed over 5,000 bagged lunches. Your donations can provide a week’s worth of lunch bags for 70 clients, six weeks of fresh produce for 70 daily visitors, and six months of bus passes and travel tokens for job interviews.
Support for Children and Families
One in 10 families live in extreme poverty in D.C. There are also many low-income families struggling to survive, as well as abused or displaced children.
The global NGO, Center for Civilians in Conflict, calls attention to ensuring the safety of civilians in conflict zones and advocates international organizations such as the U.N. and NATO to assist those caught in a crossfire. By , you can provide for a local translator during a field mission, one week’s worth of meals, lodging during conflict assessment, and training program on civilian protection.
Many children in foster care are victims of neglect and abuse. Most are looking for a stable life where they can find attention, love, and care. The CASA for Children of D.C. is a unique program which connects foster children with a caring volunteer to help them build a supportive relationship, integrate into society, find a sense of security and peace, and gain trust. Volunteers are hand-selected and after more than 30 hours of training, they are sworn in by the D.C. Superior Court. Yourcan provide life-skills lessons for one youth, cover the recruitment costs for 10 potential volunteers, and offer a year of intensive training and supervision of one volunteer.
Children facing homelessness are at a higher risk of developing learning disabilities. Bright Beginnings has been providing counseling, speech therapy, and pre-literacy learning every day for around 170 toddlers. can provide grocery store gift cards, arts and science projects for 45 toddlers, and zoo or museum trips for 50 homeless preschoolers.
When children do not find a connection with their learning material, they fail to develop a love for learning. This is especially true with standard curriculum which do not reflect the identities of students of color. Teaching for Change is a non-profit that every year trains more than 2,000 teachers in the D.C. area to help children discover their heritage, bond with their community, build family engagement strategies, and deliver interactive educational environment. With your donation, the organization can provide for one classroom a set of multicultural children’s books, a visit with a go-go musician for 90 children, and a year-long professional development course for three teachers.
The list does not end here, of course. You can also consider other non-profit organizations not listed on the CFP-D.C., such as: the Salvation Army, D.C. Central Kitchen, SOME (So Other’s May Eat), Bread for the City, and Beyond Borders.
Note: CFP-DC recommends charitable organizations with a budget under $3 million. Larger charities are therefore not listed.