The Gift of Generosity

Isabel Smith, Editor in Chief

In America, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is often regarded as “the season of giving.” The holiday spirit and time spent with loved ones rouses generosity and compassion in many, compelling them to open both their hearts and their wallets. It is prevalent in the mass spike of volunteers and donations to nonprofits—who receive about 31% of all their annual giving in December—during the holidays. However, two-thirds of people who make donations do not conduct any research before giving and donate without knowledge of the organization’s credibility, reliability, or even, their purpose. Admittedly, research does take a bit of time, so below is a vetted list of three national and four local charities for IHS students and their families to consider donating to this holiday season.

One of the most well-known nonprofits in the U.S. is The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is an international charitable organization that dabbles in all sectors of social service. The Salvation Army runs home shelters and food pantries, mobilizes teams for disaster relief, and much more. During the holiday season, volunteers frequently stand outside supermarkets and department stores—dressed in festive outfits and armed with golden bells—to solicit donations from their local community. Being a sect of the Protestant church, The Salvation Army is a fundamentally religious organization, and non-Christians and atheists may find that it does not align with their values. Furthermore, while it preaches anti-discrimination, it is important to note that The Salvation Army has a long history of LGBTQ discrimination, which is something to consider when donating to them.

Another national charity, one that is especially relevant during the holiday season, is Marine Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a nonprofit that was originally founded by the U.S. Marine Corps that collects and purchases new children’s toys to distribute to low-income families as gifts for the holidays. Toys for Tots accepts money for their program, but individuals are also free to contribute new, already-purchased toys to local campaigns across the country. King County has its own Toys for Tots campaign, and Dec. 15 is this year’s last day to donate. Although Toys for Tots is not a religiously affiliated organization, it puts a lot of emphasis on bringing Christmas spirit, suggesting that it is more inclined towards Christian festivities.

With COVID-19 still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it is nice to include a nonprofit that is at the frontlines of battling this crisis. Direct Relief is a global humanitarian organization that provides disaster relief and medical aid to heavily impacted communities. They have distributed vaccines, supplied medical equipment, and funded medical facilities worldwide. They are based in Santa Barbara, California, so it is difficult to volunteer in person, but Direct Relief accepts individual donations and encourages fundraising campaigns on their behalf.

While national and global organizations are highly influential and excellent at dispersing their resources and members, some people prefer to donate to groups that directly serve their community. For that reason, the next four organizations operate in Issaquah or serve Washington state as a whole.

First up is Everyone for Veterans, a civilian nonprofit based in Issaquah that provides free dental care to local combat veterans. Their volunteers also act as “wingmen” to veterans by assisting them with things like groceries, job search help, and transportation. Along with accepting monetary donations, individuals of any age can sign up to be a wingman or assist in other aspects of the organization. Both are excellent ways to thank U.S. troops for their service, especially those who live in the area.

Another credible charity that operates in Washington state is Treehouse, an organization that equips children in the foster care system with opportunities and mentorship. Founded by local social workers, Treehouse seeks to elevate the academic, physical, and emotional welfare of foster kids and advance equity and racial justice in the foster care system. More pertinent to the season, Treehouse runs a program that distributes gifts to youth for the holidays. Under their website’s “Get Involved” section, they welcome money as well as purchases off their Amazon wishlist.

Next up is a national organization that has a dedicated chapter in King County. PFLAG Bellevue, a branch of the oldest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S., is a grassroots organization that serves LGBTQ youth and adults in East King County—cities like Issaquah, Redmond, Snoqualmie, and Bothell. They host support groups, interact with and educate local communities on LGBTQ issues, grant scholarships to LGBTQ youth, and much more. PFLAG Bellevue welcomes monetary donations, and as an all-volunteer organization, they have a plethora of volunteer opportunities.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Potlatch Fund. A nonprofit organization led by indigenous people for the benefit of Native Tribal Nations, the Potlatch Fund trains other organizations on the needs of Native tribes and supplies grants to Native individuals and nonprofits. Their main goal is to address the high rates of poverty, unemployment, and disease among indigenous populations, and they focus specifically on Native communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The easiest way to contribute to their work is by giving financial support.

That concludes the list, but by far is this a comprehensive view of all the national or even local charities benefiting society. If none of the organizations on this list are particularly inspiring, or you and your family have already committed yourselves to a cause, I urge you to do your own research into nonprofits that share your values and be certain of their credibility. A great way to do this is to search for the group in Charity Navigator, a website that evaluates the credibility of charities based on their financial stability and transparency. Hopefully, this holiday season IHS students and their families will both receive presents and give the gift of generosity to others in need.