Thursday, January 12, 2017

Giving Smart

Everyone knows that the holiday season is when people write about giving (back).  This past holiday season was no different.  What was different for me was that I found the articles to be not only interesting, but enlightening. Some of the information was the standard fare such as; that giving isn't only good for the receiver, but for the giver as well, or that the biggest mistake givers make is to donate impulsively.  However, some of what I read was new and noteworthy.

For starters, I plan to read a book called "Survivor Diary" a memoir by Jimmy Wayne about his life. For those that aren't familiar with the name (I wasn't!), Jimmy is a country singer.  He was starved, abused and abandoned and had a heartbreaking childhood.  Jimmy was one of the lucky ones.  He was rescued by a chance encounter with a kind stranger and a guitar.  But before that, he was in and out of foster homes and his own home was a violent drug den where at one point a stepfather pulled a gun on him. While my own parents raised 23 foster children, it was before I was born.  I am very unaware of what the system is like for those in it.

The worst part of the system is the end.  Every year, about 22,000 foster kids age out of the system and are on their own.  Without extended care, one-third of former foster kid will become homeless by age 26; only half will have a job by age 24, 71% of young women will become pregnant by age 21, and many will end up in jail.  Many believe that it doesn't make sense to extend care, but when "biological children turn 18, we don't expect them to be totally self-sufficient.  Why would young people who've been traumatized be able to make it on their own?" (GH November 2016 Graves, Ginny)  There are ways to help.  A good place to start is at yvlifeset.org.

I also learned about an organization called "Points of Light."  It honors volunteers for their service with a Point of Light award.  It is the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service awarding people each weekday throughout the year and motivating millions of people around the globe to make a difference.  If you want to learn more about them, or be among the many who receive recognition for doing good - go to pointsoflight.org/goodhousekeeping, click on Choose Your Issue, select from the menu and plug in your zip code to see give-back opportunities that match your passion.  When I did this, I chose Education and put in the Blacksburg zip code.  What came up was a very varied listing of places that needed help right here in the New River Valley, from Headstart, to Alexander Black House and Good Samaritans to the Girl Scouts.

However you choose to spend your time and/or money it's important to spend ten to fifteen minutes at a minimum researching the organization to ensure it's legitimate and reputable.  Such charities will have an online presence (at least a Facebook page) but if not, it should raise a flag.  Their website should provide information on their programs and how they use funds.  You can search local media to see what kind of coverage the charity or members of its board have received.  Finally, go to irs.gov to confirm that a charity is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

Finally, take the time to do some homework and bring the name of a reputable and deserving organization to our upcoming meeting (click here: 100+ Women NRV Forms and complete the Charitable Organization Fact Sheet and submit prior to the meeting).  Who knows, maybe they'll win our quarterly donation and you can go home feeling like you're a star.

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