Change Maker: Spread the Love

If you want to make a real dif­fer­ence this sea­son, give a child the gift of good health, warmth and com­fort, or a wish come true. These 10 char­i­ties are striv­ing to im­prove life for the youngest among us.

Martha Stewart Living - - Contents - TEXT BY SARAH EN­GLER

Ten char­i­ties that are deeply com­mit­ted to help­ing chil­dren.

WHEN YOU’RE CAUGHT IN the swirl of hol­i­day plan­ning and gift shop­ping, it’s nat­u­ral to feel guilty about your own good for­tune when oth­ers have much less, esp ecially kids. Sadly, one in five chil­dren in the United States lives in poverty, and 41 per­cent are in low-in­come fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Chil­dren in Poverty. To turn your con­cern into tan­gi­ble change for the bet­ter, con­sider the work of these 10 smaller, lesser­known char­i­ties that are de­voted to help­ing kids. (For more ideas, go to the non­profit watch­dog web­sites char­i­ty­watch .org and char­i­ty­nav­i­ga­tor.org, which list hun­dreds and rank them by fi­nan­cials and how resp on­si­bly their do­na­tions are sp ent.) Pick a cause close to your heart, and make some­one’s sea­son brighter.

WHERE TO DO­NATE GOODS

Project Li­nus

Whether knit­ted, cro­cheted, or quilted, more than 7 mil­lion se­cu­rity blan­kets—all made by vol­un­teer crafters—have been gifted by this Mis­souri-based group to chil­dren who are se­ri­ously ill or have faced trauma. The web­site fea­tures pat­terns if you need a lit­tle in­spi­ra­tion, and list s chap­ters in all 50 st ates that ac­cept drop-offs of new hand­made blan­kets and craft­ing sup­plies. Con­tact them di­rect ly to see what’s needed, from fab­ric to bat­ting to thread. pro­jectli­nus.org.

Reader to Reader

In 2000, David Ma­zor learned that the li­brar­ian at his daugh­ter’s Mas­sachusetts col­lege hadn’t been able to buy a new book for the school in two years. That com­pelled him to call the li­brar­ian at Du­rant High School, in Mis­sis­sippi—which he chose be­cause it’s in one of the poor­est towns in the coun­try. When she told him they hadn’t

been able to pur­chase any in 40 years, Ma­zor started col­lect­ing and ship­ping vol­umes from his neigh­bors to the Du­rant li­brary and oth­ers like it. To­day, his project is a na­tional non­profit reach­ing 45 states. “Teach­ers of­ten spend their own money to keep their li­braries stocked, be­cause they are so keenly aware of the dif­fer­ence a class­room full of books can make,” says Ma­zor, a for­mer film dis­trib­u­tor. “We are for­tu­nate to see that dif­fer­ence first hand.” read­er­tore­ader.org.

New­borns in Need

The North Carolina-based char­ity ac­cepts in­fant sup­plies—in­clud­ing gen­tly used hats, booties, cloth­ing, and toys—for pre­ma­ture, sick, or im­pov­er­ished ba­bies, and do­nates them to about two thou­sand hos­pi­tals, shel­ters, and fam­i­lies across the U.S. Get your com­mu­nity in­volved by hold­ing a hol­i­day di­a­per drive or “baby shower” event to col­lect store­bought items to send. new­bornsin­need.org.

Pow­erMyLearn­ing

Part­ner­ing with in­di­vid­ual schools, dist ricts, and after-school cen­ters across the coun­try, this New York City–based group aims to trans­form teach­ing and fam­ily en­gage­ment with tech­nol­ogy through its pro­grams. You can do­nate wiped lap­tops, desk­tops, tablets, print­ers, and other hard­ware (like USB flash drives and surge pro­tec­tors) to help in­crease ac­cess to some tech­nol­ogy in the homes of low-in­come st udents. Just fill out the form on the web­site and fol­low the inst ruct ions to ship your gear to (or drop it off at) the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s At­lanta or NYC ware­houses. pow­ermylearn­ing.org.

One Sim­ple Wish

Work­ing with part­ner agen­cies in just about ev­ery state, this non­profit, founded by New Jer­sey fos­ter par­ent Danielle Gle­tow, de­liv­ers act ual wishes—gui­tar lessons for a mu­si­clov­ing 9-year-old, tick­ets to a bas­ket­ball game for a girl with WNBA dreams—to donors who want to grant them. Scroll through the web­site to learn about the child be­hind each wish, and check back year-round. (You can also give a gift on a kid’s birth­day, for inst ance.) “Each month, we get be­tween five hun­dred and a thou­sand wishes, rang­ing in cost from ten to five hun­dred dol­lars,” Gle­tow says. In the past 10 years, One Sim­ple Wish has im­pacted more than 55,000 chil­dren. “Kids are so filled with joy and grat­i­tude, know­ing that a per­son they will prob­a­bly never meet thought enough of them to lis­ten to their wish and make it come true.” ones­im­plewish.org.

WHERE TO DO­NATE MONEY

Chil­dren In­cor­po­rated

This Vir­ginia-based or­ga­ni­za­tion has been help­ing kids in need of life es­sen­tials in 23 coun­tries, in­clud­ing in­ner-city, ru­ral Ap­palachian, and Na­tive Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tions in the U.S., since 1964. For $30 a month, you can sp on­sor a child, and the money will help fund her food, cloth­ing, health care, and ed­u­ca­tion. Or you can make a one-time do­na­tion to sup­port var­i­ous pro­grams, which cover ev­ery­thing from mos­quito nets to warm cloth­ing to skills train­ing. chil­dren­in­cor­po­rated.org.

Cook­ies for Kid's

Can­cer ear­marked one con­sider Can­cer Cook­ies death does, ter pe­di­atric of wants the by and is dis­ease fund­ing can­cers the the for to less for think idea num­ber-one Kids’ prostate than of re­ceive that that U.S. about half Can­cer breast chil­dren, kids can­cer. just can­cer, of cause can what’s can­cer a quar- “No but get or of it—but is isn’t part di­rected that of the fear to­ward rea­son of talk­ing re­search,” more about money says it co­founder her hus­band, Gretchen Larry, started Witt. this She New and Jer­sey–based their 2-year-old non­profit son, in Liam, 2008 after was di­ag­nosed with stage-four neu­rob­las­toma. When they learned of the lack of re­search fund­ing, Gretchen en­listed 250 vol­un­teers to bake enough cook­ies to raise $420,000. Liam lost his bat­tle in 2011, but the money they’ve raised—through do­na­tions, cookie pur­chases on the web­site, and peo­ple or­ga­niz­ing their own bake sales—has funded 100 re­search grants and 41 new treat­ments. cook­ies­forkid­scancer.org.

Shoes That Fit

In 1992, Elodie McGuirk, then a col­lege fi­nan­cial-aid co­or­di­na­tor in Clare­mont, Cal­i­for­nia, heard from an ele­men­tary-school sec­re­tary about a boy who was cry­ing be­cause his par­ents had turned his toes un­der, to cram his grow­ing feet into too-small shoes. The sec­re­tary added that she’d seen hun­dreds of kids like him. Un­able to stop think­ing about them, McGuirk posted a flyer at work ask­ing for new shoes. “So much of chil­dren’s lives in­volves run­ning, jump­ing, and play­ing,” she says. “When your shoes hurt or ob­vi­ously be­long to some­one else, it’s hard to feel good about your­self.” Last year, Shoes That Fit gave more than 120,000 new sneak­ers in 45 states (a do­na­tion of $25 typ­i­cally buys a name-brand pair). “Shoes and per­sonal ap­pear­ance are of­ten tied to a child’s sense of self-es­teem,” McGuirk says. “For some chil­dren we serve, these are the first new shoes they have ever owned.” shoesthat­fit.org.

Bless­ings in a Back­pack

One in six Amer­i­can schoolkids thinks of the week­end not as a time to have fun, but as two days of hunger. For some food-in­se­cure chil­dren, school meals are the only ac­cess to af­ford­able nu­tri­tion. This Ken­tucky-based group has helped feed st udents in more than a thou­sand schools across 45 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. A $100 do­na­tion can send a child home each Fri­day for the en­tire 38-week school year with enough sus­te­nance to last her un­til Mon­day. bless­ingsin­aback­pack.org.

Pajama Pro­gram

While ter in 2001, vol­un­teer­ing Genevieve at a Pi­turro New York re­al­ized City shel- the chil­dren she was read­ing to didn’t have a loved one to tuck them in each night, and of­ten slept in the same clothes they’d worn all day. That in­spired her to start the Pajama Pro­gram, which has de­liv­ered mil­lions of pj’s, as well as books, to kids in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico. Though the ini­tia­tive ac­cepts goods, Pi­turro says mon­e­tary gifts go fur­ther: The or­ga­ni­za­tion can of­ten buy five new pairs of pa­ja­mas for the same cost of one at re­tail. “We be­lieve that all chil­dren have the right to a good night,” she says. “A com­fort­ing bed­time rou­tine helps them wake up ready to learn and have a great day, and can carry them into adult­hood.”

pa­jamapro­gram.org.

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