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Good-Conscience Giving

A heartfelt alternative

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Good-Conscience Giving

Think outside of the gift box this Christmas. Donate to one of the many worthwhile charities, such as the Salvation Army, for good-conscience giving.

The next time you hear bells jingling and see a Salvation Army volunteer, reach for your wallet and be generous.

Provide a Safe Shelter

In Toronto there were 5,000 homeless at last count. In Calgary there are 3,400. In Vancouver and Edmonton, 2,100 and 2,200 homeless dwell, respectively. A conservative estimate puts Canada’s homeless population at around 100,000 people. Not one of them could survive outdoors overnight at temperatures below -15 C, yet crowded shelters are sometimes forced to turn people away.

While the Salvation Army provides one-third of all shelter beds in Canada, local shelters also help to fill this fundamental need. Do some research and find a shelter in your city. Then skip the $50 gift exchange with your best friend and together agree to fund an armload of new linens instead.

Curb Hunger

Food bank boxes are a familiar sight. A filled box is an even better sight, because it means fewer people will go hungry. More than 720,000 Canadians accessed food banks monthly in 2007, 39 percent of whom were children, according to the Canadian Association of Food Banks.

Get a jump on spring cleaning and go through your pantry for nonperishable donations. Some grocery stores also offer food bank gift cards for purchase. Those contributions definitely add up. Last year the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre’s Tree of Plenty fundraising campaign raised more than $270,000.

Reach Out Internationally

The shadow of poverty reaches far beyond Canada, which is why international aid organizations such as Oxfam (oxfam.ca) and World Vision (worldvision.ca) offer opportunities to sponsor poor children and their families with food, medicine, seeds, and animals in countries across the globe.

One overall-wearing celebrity who takes international aid seriously is Mike Holmes of the popular renovation TV show Holmes on Homes, who is a spokesperson for SOS Children’s Villages Canada (soschildrensvillages.ca).

This registered charity, which has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 13 times, operates in more than 130 countries, providing homes and support systems for the world’s most vulnerable children, orphans, and disadvantaged families.

There’s nothing wrong with giving a coffee card to your Starbucks-addicted partner, but kindly consider that sponsoring a needy child typically costs less than a store-bought specialty coffee per day. Why not skip the caffeine this year and save a life?

Give of Your Time

Money may make the world go round, but caring can also be expressed in other ways. Volunteers are always needed to make the wheels run at institutions that must rely on unpaid labour, filling essential roles at places such as soup kitchens and food banks.

Thirty-two percent of food banks have no paid staff yet make a huge difference in the lives of Canadians. Volunteers fill, on average, the equivalent of five full-time jobs in each of Canada’s 673 food banks and 2,867 affiliated agencies, which is a true testament to the spirit of service.

Give of yourself and contact Volunteer Canada (volunteer.ca), the national voice for volunteerism in Canada since 1977. They now have 200 offices across the country, where they match volunteers with community needs.

If you love animals, you can become a dog walker through your local branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). At the SPCA in St. John’s, Newfoundland, 60 volunteers help care for the countless animals sheltered by the nonprofit society.

Create a Greener Future

For environmentalists, what greater gift is there than protecting our planet? Campaigns that preserve everything from local bogs to Brazilian rainforests need our financial support. The Canadian Environmental Network (cen-rce.org), a network with 30 years’ experience and numerous affiliates, is a good place to start.

Today’s fundraising efforts are so sophisticated that you don’t even need cash, merely an Internet connection and a few seconds to spare. At care2.com choose from numerous causes and click to donate (the proceeds are actually provided by a sponsor).

Save 7.4 square feet of marine wetlands. Or support the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s campaign against seal hunting in Canada. Another click offsets one pound of carbon emissions–roughly the equivalent of a quick hot shower–courtesy of the Alliance for Climate Protection.

This winter, isn’t it truly time to think outside of the gift box and make good-conscience giving–in whatever form it takes–our personal priority?

Keep these Tips in Mind when Making a Donation.

  • Check out the group’s website.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make sure the group is the one you think it is.
  • Make sure you understand what the group does to achieve its goals.
  • Make sure the charity is legitimate.
  • Check out the group’s expenses.
  • Give to groups you know and trust.
  • Volunteer, if you have time, to get the best sense of what an organization is all about.
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