It’s that time of year again: time to select a few last charitable organizations to support through end of year donations. Whether you’re making donations from your own personal funds or on behalf of a company, giving is an important part of building and belonging to our community – on a hyperlocal, national and international scale.
Like giving Christmas presents to friends and family, charitable donations are a win-win: they make us feel good, they bring joy to others we care about, and they keep the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future at bay on Christmas eve.
Deciding where to give is just as important a decision as deciding how much to give. Each organization, whether on a hyperlocal or global scale, impacts our community in a different way, and different organizations manage donated funds differently. Not all charitable organizations provide the same services, nor are they equal.
Sifting through the sea of good causes can be a daunting task, so we’ve identified 10 local, national and international organizations we feel offer the most responsible, impactful and sustainable service to our community.
Creative Youth Center
Few issues impact community development more than education. The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, modeled after creative writing celebrity Dave Eggers’ 826 National writing and tutoring program, provides tutoring, creative writing classes and press clubs to Grand Rapids’ underprivileged youth. Students who may be struggling with the basics of writing have the opportunity to learn not only writing, but also self expression and creative problem solving. Many students are published through the CYC, opening new worlds of opportunity for Grand Rapids’ next generation of leaders.
A recent recipient of a $257,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, Well House provides housing and customized services to those who are homeless in Grand Rapids. No treatment requirements are made on Well House residents; rather, tailored services for mental illness and addiction are made available on an individual basis. The organization utilizes a full-circle approach, rehabilitating vacant homes in the area as housing for the program. Homeless who are served by Well House often volunteer their labor to renovate these homes, and the organization hopes to be able to formally employ homeless volunteers in the near future.
American Red Cross (Greater Grand Rapids Chapter)
Few organizations have the reach, experience or credibility of the American Red Cross. The organization’s official mission is to “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.” But ARC’s services go far beyond disaster relief; blood services, medical transportation, preparedness and resiliency and emergency training are just a few of the other services this important organization provide on local, national and global scales. Whether a home has burnt down in Midtown or a typhoon has struck the Philippines, American Red Cross is the first to arrive on the scene to help.
YWCA West Central Michigan
Racism; sexual violence; political, social and economic inequality; these problems pose some of the most significant barriers to developing sustainable, diverse cities. Our local YWCA offers services which support victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and stalking while working to eliminate racism and empower those members of our community who are often most vulnerable: women and girls.
We’ve all heard Michigan Radio’s spring and fall fundraising pitches: empowering our local media is key to building democratic, informed communities. A hyperlocal citizen journal, the Rapidian unearths stories from our community which wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day. This is a valuable resource for empowering voices and stories from a diverse spectrum of our community.
Oxfam is an organization dedicated to ending poverty and injustice around the world. Their work ranges from emergency response to ongoing work with education, health, agriculture and infrastructure. By partnering with local governments and other agencies, Oxfam is able to address long-term needs in underprivileged areas long after emergency response agencies have left.
One of the most well-known of the Heartside ministries, Dégagé offers basic food, shelter and hygiene services to those in our Grand Rapids community who are homeless and disadvantaged. The 400-500 individuals this ministry serves each day are testament to how necessary these services are in our community.
West Michigan Environmental Action Council
This Grand Rapids-native environmental advocacy organization has led the forefront on nationwide issues since 1968, leading the first case against the use of DDT. Today, WMEAC continues to make a powerful local and national impact through campaigns such as Building Sustainable Communities and Protecting Water Resources.
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
This “citizen driven nonprofit working to protect, enhance and expand our community parks” addresses a critical niche in our larger goal of growing Grand Rapids into a sustainable community: our parks and greenspaces. Most recently, Friends of GR Parks spearheaded the parks millage which allowed for desperately needed maintenance and repair of GR’s urban greenspaces over the next 7 years.
Grand Rapids Whitewater
This exciting Grand River restoration project has evolved from a whispered conspiracy to a fully articulated plan with government backing on local and federal levels. The restoration of the Grand River to its natural, pre-industrialized state will generate endless possibilities for recreation, city beautification and economic growth downtown. GR Whitewater has gained its feet; help this project come one step closer to realization!