The holiday season can bring out the best and worst in us.
We reunite with family ... and remember why we moved away. We scour the stores to buy just-the-right gifts ... to assuage some deep-seeded guilt and rack up debt we didn't need more of. We eat, drink and get merry ... only to wind up fat and hung over in the new year.
Fortunately, there's still one holiday tradition that remains relatively unscathed: charity (admittedly, all the solicitations for donations get old quick). For all the giving and receiving that goes on, few acts mean as much or feel as fulfilling as giving of yourself to someone truly in need.
My wife and I have donated to charities over the years, but it wasn't until the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina that I honestly believed our donations carried any weight. After watching a city and a region I know well ravaged by that storm, I realized that anything we could do to help would help. Every year since, we've given to charities along the Gulf Coast and in the city of New Orleans.
Every little bit, they say.
Now, that's not to say we don't have worthy causes here in the D.C. area. The Web site Charity Navigator is a great resource not only for finding local charities, but information about them. Unfortunately, you can't trust every organization that calls itself a charity. Organizations that should not get your money can range from poorly run nonprofits to complete scams. Make sure you know where your money is going.
Also, keep in mind that churches and other places of worship do a huge amount of charitable work during the holiday season.
This being D.C. Foodies, I've compiled a list of charities that operate in the D.C. area dedicated to helping feed the hungry during the holiday season and beyond. I've also included a list of homeless shelters, because let's face it; given the homeless population in the D.C. area, the shelters can use all the help they can get.
DC Central Kitchen: As DC Central Kitchen points out on it's mission statement, it's not a soup kitchen. The local charity not only feeds the homeless, but also gives homeless men and women the job training necessary to work their way out of their situation.
Capital Area Food Bank: Like the DC Central Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank provides those in need with more than a meal. But because hunger is a growing problem in our community, the Capital Area Food Bank is expanding to meet the need. Information about the 'Til No One is Hungry campaign is available on the food bank's Web site.
Manna Food Center: This Montgomery County food bank has been combating hunger through the distribution of food, education and advocacy for more than a quarter century.
So Others Might Eat: So Others Might Eat does it all. The charity feeds, clothes, rehabilitates and provides a litany of other critical service for our local homeless community, while helping them find a way out of poverty.
Share Our Strength: Share Our Strength is one of the largest and most high profile hunger relief charities in the country. Images of Guy Fieri shilling for the nonprofit aside, Share Our Strength is a worthwhile charity that helps people in our community.
Meals on Wheels: I used to work at a newspaper in North Carolina. Every holiday season the paper would run listings of donations for people in need. Each listing was no longer than a classified ad, and the ones from senior citizens seeking nothing more than a warm meal and someone to talk to on Christmas killed me. Every one of them. Meals on Wheels has been providing meals and comfort to senior citizens for 70 years.
The following is a list of shelters in the D.C. area. All of them could use a few volunteers.
Central Union Mission: (202) 745-7118
1350 R Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20009
Gospel Rescue Ministries Of Washington DC: (202) 842-1731
810 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC
Luther Place Night Shelter (202) 939-2076
N Street Village, 1333 N Street NW Washington, DC 20005
Sasha Bruce House (202) 547-7777
741 8th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003
And on a lighter note, next week, The Passenger will begin holding charity happy hours every Monday. The Brown brothers (Tom and Derek) will offer $5 wines, beer and a punch of the day, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to a different charity or cause.
Now if you're not into drinking (which means we can't hang), but are into burgers (Ok, maybe we can), you can head to any of the three BGR The Burger Joints and feed yourself and someone else. BGR is partnering with DC Central Kitchen for the ONE for ONE campaign. Throughout the month of December, for every burger BGR sells it will donate a burger to the DC Central Kitchen. You eat. Someone else gets to eat. Everyone's happy.