This season, surround yourself with the spirit of giving and giving back, especially to organizations who have done so much to help our local community. There is no shortage of ways to give back, whether it’s through monetary means, a charity run, or just the gift of volunteering time.
<br /><br />This list provides just a glimpse at some of the many charities in the region. Be sure to check out the background of each organization through their individual websites.<br /><br /> Pictured: Participants in the annual December Santa Speedo Run, a charity race through the streets of the Back Bay.<br /><br /> Check out some of the different categories of charities that you might consider making a part of your seasonal tradition of giving. <br /><br />Share the charities you recommend or have donated to this season below.
Family homelessness is the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, accounting for 41 percent of the nation’s homeless population, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.
Pine Street Inn the largest resource for homeless men and women in New England provides a comprehensive range of services, including permanent supportive housing, job training and placement, emergency shelter, and street outreach to more than 1,600 homeless men and women each day. The shelter relies on food donations and volunteers to serve its guests.
Horizons for Homeless Children, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, provides early education, opportunities for play, and family engagement services to more than 3,000 homeless children each week across Massachusetts.
While many nonprofit programs work to help the homeless, not all efforts come through formal organizations. Online fund-raising efforts through locally based projects like Invisible Faces use grassroots tactics. Invisible Faces is on a mission to raise $27,000 to donate to youth homeless programs during the holiday season.
Pictured, from left: Jim Greene, director of emergency shelters for the Boston Public Health Commission, and Beth Grand, the commission’s bureau director for homeless services, talked with two homeless people during a stop on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing while taking part in the 33d Annual Homeless Census.
Women and families
Women are among the most vulnerable populations in need around Greater Boston and worldwide.
More than 200 million women lack access to contraceptives, according to Watertown-based Pathfinder International. The goal of the global sexual and reproductive health organization is to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the women and families worldwide. Donations to the organization help support health services from contraception and maternal care to HIV prevention and AIDS care and treatment.
Locally, The Women’s Center has helped to alleviate some of the burdens on women. Its mission: “To provide women with the resources and support they need to emerge from conditions of domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty, discrimination, social isolation, and degradation.” Its programs have helped more than 2,000 underserved and at-risk women annually from Greater Boston and across New England.
The Women’s Lunch Place, which has 400 volunteers, provides breakfast and lunch six days a week to poor and homeless women. The estimated 125 women who enter the shelter daily also have access to laundry facilities, showers, medical care, computers, and advocacy groups. This season, the Women’s Lunch Place is asking donors for $25 gift cards so their guests are able to buy things they cannot afford on their own.
Rosie’s Place in Boston offers emergency and long-term assistance to women who have nowhere else to turn. The shelter relies on volunteers and donors to sustain.
Pictured: Rashita Clark and daughter Kennedy Clark, 6, posed for a portrait on an air mattress in Kennedy's bedroom in the family's new apartment. Rashita Clark and her two children moved into this new apartment after having lived in a hotel provided by a homeless shelter for 7 months.
We love fulfilling our own children’s holiday wishes this season, but there are many children who go without during the holidays and throughout the year.
Laboure Center Early Childhood Services, located in South Boston, provides a safe, clean, healthy environment where children can grow. Program services include meals on site for no additional cost and activities that stimulate the creativity, self reliance, and imagination of young children.
Pictured: 450 guests attended Catholic Charities Laboure Center Fifth Annual Fashion Fall Show held at UMass Boston Campus Center in September. The event raised $65,000 to benefit The Laboure Center Program.
Cradles to Crayons provides necessities for children and their families including clothing, school supplies, and toys. The organization accepts both monetary and goods donations.
Located in Jamaica Plain, the Italian Home for Children provides assistance to boys and girls between ages 4 and 14 with emotional challenges. The goal of the organization is to reunify children with their alternative families or to preserve families who are considered at risk.
Room to Dream Foundation creates healing environments in hospitals, communities, and homes for children and adolescents who are facing chronic illnesses. The organization uses fund-raising and volunteer efforts by other children to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate.
The Home for Little Wanderers serves at-risk families with children and youth from birth to age 21. Its programs include individual, group and family therapy, psychological and neuro-psychological testing, medication management, child and family skills development, birth parent counseling, and life skills training. The organization is always looking for volunteers and mentors.
Some 13 percent of children under 18 live in food-insecure households, according to the nonprofit organization Project Bread. And 253,600 households in Massachusetts are at risk for hunger, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Project Bread ’s goal is to alleviate, prevent, and ultimately end hunger in Massachusetts.
The Greater Boston Food Bank is another relief agencies aimed at ending hunger in eastern Massachusetts. In 2011, the organization distributed almost 41 million pounds of food, enough to provide healthy meals to as many as 545,000 people.
Pictured: More than 1,500 bags of free food, such as stuffing mix and canned vegetables, were available to the public outside Catholic Charities Greater Boston at the Yawkey Center in Dorchester on Nov. 19.
Adolescents and teens
Adolescent and teen years can be a tumultuous time. Young boys and girls may regularly face pressures and challenges, and without the proper support in place, it may be difficult to cope. Fortunately, a variety of local organizations have identified key challenges that youths face and are working to help them pull through.
Girls ages 10-14 are at highest risk for sexual assault and exploitation, according to Boston’s Girls’ LEAP, or Lifetime Empowerment & Awareness Program . The program helps young girls build decision-making skills, increase personal confidence through self-defense and empowerment workshops.
Samaritans Inc . is a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing suicide by increasing happiness. The organization provides free services in greater Boston and Metrowest communities to alleviate despair, isolation, distress, and suicidal feelings among individuals by educating the public about suicide prevention. Their services are not limited to youths.
Pictured: Geneva Bowdoin (left) and Flavio Daveiga (right), Cape Verdean liaison and neighbohood coordinator with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, reached out to peer leaders with Catholic Charities.
The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program offers clinical care and support services for service members, veterans, and their families throughout the deployment cycle.
The Taunton-based nonprofit organization, Homes For Our Troops , provides specially adapted homes that allow freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently for wounded soldiers returning from war.
Money is not the only way to donate during the season. Charities like Cell Phones for Soldiers , a Norwell-based organization, is looking for gently used cellphones to send to deployed troops so they are able to speak with their loved ones while overseas. Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided more than 168 million minutes of free talk time, mails approximately 12,000 calling cards each week, and has recycled more than 10.5 million cellphones. Check the website for nearby areas to drop off the cellphones.
Pictured: The Home Base Program’s 2012 Run-Walk to Home Base at Fenway Park. About 2000 runners and walkers, including several hundred active military, took part in the 9k run and 3 mile walk benefitting the Red Sox Foundation and the MGH Home Base Program. Pam Payeur of Biddeford, Maine, finished the race in honor of her son, who is retired from the US Army and on disability.
Support for organizations that help those with special needs is another way to give this season.
One in six people over the age 65 has vision loss, and that number rises to half of elders over age 80, according to the Massachusetts Association for the Blind. Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is the oldest social service organization in the country that serves adults and elders who are blind or visually impaired.
Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of well-coached Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Pictured: Sean Rimas, 13, sat on the trampoline in his backyard while his brothers and sisters played around him. Sean has autism, and his mother, Beth Rimas, an EMT, is a supporter of a Boston City Council proposal to create a special needs registry which would notify first responders if a person with a disability or special needs lived in a home.
More than 11 percent of all American families live below the poverty line, the highest level in a decade, according to Horizons for Homeless Children . In 2012, the poverty line for a family of four was $23,000. Many charities work with families impacted by poverty to help them achieve their financial, educational, and career goals.
Pictured: Ann Houston, right, and Marissa Guananja created CONNECT , a program to help lift poor people out of poverty by giving them coaches and support groups. The federal government recently funded the program with a $3 million grant because it is interested in seeing whether it could become a national model.
Room to Grow is a program provides parents raising babies in poverty with one-on-one parenting support and essential baby items throughout their children’s critical first three years of life.
There may be no better gift this season that giving a deserving animal a loving home. However, the Humane Society recommends against giving pets as holiday gifts if the prospective owner is not prepared to take on the added responsibility. Be sure to discuss plans to adopt in advance.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston is looking for loving families willing to adopt their shelter animals. The nonprofit organization has rescued thousands of animals from suffering, cruelty, abandonment, and neglect since 1899.
The MSPCA also works to protect and advance te health and welfare of animals across the state. The nonprofit organization accepts monetary donations, adoptions, as well as new volunteers at their various adoption centers.
Pictured: Kittens at the Cape Cod Adoption Center in Brewster .
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