Here are two charities close to my heart and my stomach:
The Greater Boston Food Bank, the clearing house for Boston area food pantries. We had some lean years, which I’ve written about before. Free Lunch, Food Stamps, and USDA surplus food kept us going year-round, but in the fall and all through the winter, food pantries made a big difference. My mother never brought us with her to the pantries, but I remember her coming home the first Saturday of the month with her two bags of canned goods. It was usually staples– pasta, sauce, canned soup, tuna. We ate lots of tuna casserole and jello salad with fruit cocktail in the winter. Pretty much the only fresh vegetables we would eat would be iceberg lettuce and cello-pak tomatoes for “salad.” But every once in a while, there would be a treat– eggs, and a box of brownie mix, or some day-old doughnuts. The GBFB kept that local pantry stocked, and kept us fed. When I was older, and my Dad was making more money, and my mother was actually working a bit, we didn’t need the handouts, and my father’s girlfriend at the time was a big fan of The Walk for Hunger, a big annual fundraiser from which the GBFB was a major beneficiary. I would bring my fundraising sheet around school and church, and people would sponsor me, clucking to themselves about how generous a spirit I was. I never told them that I was doing the walk out of self-interest.
Globe Santa— the Boston Globe’s donation drive for toys and money to buy toys, so no one goes without something under the Christmas tree. We were pretty young the year we got a supplement to the few things my mother could afford, and I really don’t remember much about what we got, but I do remember having the real fear of nothing under the tree allayed by the big, brightly wrapped boxes. Now, there are so many more important things than Christmas gifts, and we’ve moved in my circle toward a collective charitable gift and/or a Yankee Swap or dinner out together, but back then, to a little one, facing the fear of having to make something up, to lie, when school vacation was over and you were asked “whadja get for Christmas?” the brightly wrapped boxes meant the salvage of a little self-esteem.
I’m hoping that our group gift will go to the GBFB this year, and that I’ll be able to make a personal gift to Globe Santa. I’ll be interested in reading about your pet charities.