Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gradual Giving

If you're like me, there are certain charitable causes that you care about and you'd like to help support. If you're also like me, you're on a fixed budget and sometimes you feel like, "I'm not wealthy...what can I do?" A lot of the time, charities need your time more than anything so if you have some to spare, give that a try. E-mail them or call and say, "What can I do to help?" There's very little chance that they'll turn you down and you'll be surprised at the nice people you'll meet and how good giving of yourself makes you feel. It's a tried and true mood lifter.

This donation time can even take place in your own neighborhood. Do you have an elderly neighbor who might need help in the yard...or walking their pet? Or just might enjoy having someone to talk to? Or a single parent who seems obviously overwhelmed? Now, sometimes it's hard to figure out how to start that ball rolling. Here's the easiest way - you see them out in the yard and you just go over to say hello. Talk about something that is going on in the neighborhood or the weather or how pretty their flowers look. Before you know it, you'll be on friendly terms with them. Every day, all around us there are people who could just use a helping hand or sometimes, just a simple smile to keep them going.

One of the things that I care about more than anything is animal welfare. In our town, our shelter has a food pantry where financially struggling pet owners can come and get food and supplies for their pets. It's such a great thing because with the economy being what it is, so many people have to give up their pets because they can't afford the food and supplies for them. Every day, I see ads from people giving up pets because they can't afford them. Can you imagine how heartbreaking that would be? So, at Christmas this year, when my family asked me what I wanted, I handed over the wish list from the pet pantry. And look how they came through!

Now, this is something that I never could have afforded on my own. But with everyone pitching in, I can now donate lots of great stuff to the pet pantry. I'm so excited to deliver it and to think about the pets and owners that these items will help.

We've decided that we'll do it again this Christmas too. I'm super stoked to see what we can gather up.

This brings me to an idea that I had called "Gradual Giving". I know that the Mister and I will still be on a tight budget this year but I want to be able to add to the donation to the pantry next time. Here's how we're going to do it - each week when we go to the grocery store, we'll pick up one can of cat food and one can of dog food to add to our donation box. Nothing fancy - just the cheapest that we can find which is usually about eighty cents for both cans. I'm also going to work coupon magic and when there are nicer things that I can get for cheap, I'll get those too - but never over a dollar per week. Then we'll come home, drop them in the donation box and forget about them. And week by week, though our grocery bill won't suffer, we'll have a nice full box to donate at the end of the year. Exciting!

This can be done with any cause that you'd like to support. You can start a box for your local food bank. Or personal hygiene supplies to donate to your local homeless or battered women shelter. Or school supplies for an organization that helps families afford to send their kids to school. Little gifts for nursing home residents.

The possibilities are endless and this plan can be suited to any charity that you'd like to support. Just look them up online or call them and find out what items they usually need most of all and go from there. You could even do this with a certain person or family in mind. Do you know someone in your neighborhood (or another)that has a hard time making ends meet? Pick up little items as you can and start a nice basket of things for them. Sometimes, pride keeps us from accepting donations from people but under the guise of holiday giving, most people will smile and never think anything of it.

And let me tell you, if you save up your coupons, you can get these donation items really cheap! It can be a pretty fun game to see what you can afford if you try.
If you don't want to collect items, you can always just have a jar that you put your change in. By the end of the year, apply it to whatever charity strikes your fancy. For instance, when I see the "Angel Tree" that our local Salvation Army puts up every year, I always want to take a child's name from it and buy a toy or new clothes for them but usually, we're in holiday budget lock-down mode and I can't. This would be a good way to manage that too.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not preachy preachy and saying that you have to. Not by any means. This is just an idea for those of us who want to and sometimes feel overwhelmed and like we won't be able to afford to. The charity that usually gets the most attention is the kind where a bigwig donates a giant cardboard check to an organization for a flashy photo-op. But for the most part, the majority of charity happens under the radar every day. Hold the door open for someone you don't know. Stop your car and help a wandering, lost pet. Take the time to listen when a coworker seems like they're having a hard time. Clip a small bouquet from your garden for a neighbor or nursing home. Keep your eye on the neighborhood kids walking to and from school to keep them safe. No matter how small it seems, it's a big deal.

My friend, Gia gave me a postcard that says, "Remember that everyone you meet loves something, has lost something, and is afraid of something." Most of us just want to feel like we matter and that we're noticed in this world. I think that we can do that for each other if nothing else.

Until next time,
x's and o's,


Coedith said...

Thanks for this post! I easily get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing because I can't do everything. It is great to be reminded of how little things add up and mean a lot.

Sara In AZ said...

Oh Eartha, what great ideas! You are an inspiration!

Eartha Kitsch said...

Coedith: You're welcome. All of the little things that we manage to do add up to big things. I'm convinced of it. :)

Sara: You too, mama!

DearHelenHartman said...

Wonderful ideas. So often we don't give because we think we can't give enough but giving a little every week adds up!

Little Rosy Runabout said...

Oooh, child, as a non-profit worker I love the topic of how to make your donations stretch a mile!And you are a doll to give your Christmas presents to the animals! May I be so bold as to add a few of my own tricks to make a donation doller holler?
There is a small dog rescue down the street from where I work, and the lady who runs it says she always needs linens of every type (towels, blankets, sheets), so I stock up at stuff-a-bag sales and bring those to her.
In a totally different vein, I like to buy toys when they are on a good sale, or if a see a nice new toy in the packaging at the Goodwill, and squirrel it away for Toys for Tots. I have a special bin that I put my toy donations in all year 'round. I also put away any gifts that my daughter receives that are too young for her, or are duplicates of something she already has, and donate those, too. And when I see things like cosmetic bags, nail files, small mirrors, scarves, and jewelry in the dollar section at Target that get marked down to 50 cents and 25 cents I scoop them all up and assemble beauty and manicure kits for teenage girls.
I also try to save the $5 gift cards I get from Target when you buy certain items (like, if you buy a certain detergent sometimes you'll get a $5 gift card), put them away, save them until the end of the year, and cash them in for a healthy gift card that can be given to a teenage boy. Teenagers often get overlooked at Christmas. And lastly, here's one I got from someone else on the internet. If I use a coupon on a sale item, I can often get toothpaste for free, or very cheap. I keep a tube in my car and if I get approached by someone looking for money, I offer them toothpaste instead. The last man I offered toothpaste to was so happy-- he said he'd just used the last of his toothpaste that morning!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post! You really touched my heart. I often see a lady in my neighborhood who has a dog and I know she has a hard time feeding him, so I've been keeping a can of dog food in my car and when I see her I give it to her. It's such an easy thing to do and I know it helps her and her dog.

Bandita said...

Awesome and inspirational!

Angie @ thejunkranch said...

I loved your post! So inspiring and realistic!

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

Oh you're so sweet to ask for things for the animal charity for Christmas. There are some great ideas in this post. I sponsor a child in Bangladesh by monthly direct debit but I do sometimes think there's more I could do. When I was entering and winning a lot of competitions I was able to donate a lot of my prizes to raffles and so on.

Sparkleneely said...

How wonderful! Thanks for being so inspirational and generous. And what you've been doing for the animal community in Nashville is remarkable.

I've been buying a can of food for our local food bank every time I go to the store -- that dollar or so feeds someone and makes me feel good, too.

Thanks for being you.

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

what a great idea! i always feel like the small donation i can give doesn't matter much, but doing a little bit each week is such a good idea.
I didn't know shelters did the food pantry thing! so great! i often wonder if my pugs ended up as strays because someone couldn't afford to take care of them.

Virginia said...

Oh that was wonderful of you! And you have some great ideas there. I have a "penny jar" that I toss odd change into. I just cashed it in and put the money in the bank, but next time I think I will look into some of your ideas.

And you are right about random acts of kindness making you feel good. The other day I got some canned goods off a top shelf for a gentleman in a scooter and I felt good the rest of the day.

Amber Von Felts said...

This is a very good idea! I like your kind heart towards people and pets. I can't even count the times I have stopped for wandering dogs anymore, I have reunited quite a few to thier owners! I have a soft spot for the animals too. :-)

SUZY8-TRACK said...

Such great ideas! Glad to see someone who loves animals as much as I do!

Jeanne said...

What a great idea(s)!! It seems silly to donate one or two things, but to stash them and save up is a fabulous idea! And the Christmas wish list is great!! Thanks for the inspiration.

Animal welfare is on the top of my list, too. I've been saving my old towels because the Humane Society has them on their "wish" list.