On Saturday morning I did something new- I rang bells (well, one bell) for a Salvation Army kettle. It was a very rewarding experience and I’m already planning on volunteering next year. I’ve supported them all my life and here’s why:
#1 The Salvation Army is an extremely well run charity. For decades they have been the gold standard on distribution percentage to their programs vs. admin costs and they continue to do so. Very few other organizations have been this good for this long. Quite a few other of the highest rated charities- such as Catholic Charities and the YMCA- also have their origins in Christian churches. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
#2 My dad. I have many memories of my dad putting money in those red kettles. One trip in particular stands out in my mind when I was about 6 years old. We must have seen 7 bell ringers that day and he made a point of donating at least a couple dollars every time, chatting with the folks ringing the bells, and thanking THEM. That will stick with me until the day I die and every time I put money (coins or paper) into a kettle I think of my dad and smile. We haven’t seen eye to eye on few things this year so this has been extra special for me this Christmas.
#3 I know people who the Salvation Army has helped, in some cases when other charities turned them away. I know folks who got stranded during snowstorms and the Salvation Army gave them a warm meal and a warm place to spend the night. I know caregivers whose lives are greatly improved by their mothers being able to spend time in Adult Day Care. I know people who lose everything in a fire who received not emergency shelter but clothing, coats, hats, and mittens.
There have been people criticizing the Salvation Army in recent years for their church’s stance on LBGT issues. People who know me know how strongly I feel about LBGT rights. For me the good that the organization does is what’s important and I know for a fact that they distribute services without asking anyone who they love. So for me it’s a non-issue.
However, if you choose to donate elsewhere I respect that. Just please do your homework and make sure you are also donating to a well-run organization. Some good national options without religious connections are: the Boys and Girls Clubs, Toys for Tots, the Innocence Project, and the Michael J Fox Foundation. Or, you can donate to a local food pantry, animal shelter, woman’s shelter, etc. There are all kinds of great ways to be charitable this holiday season and I encourage everyone who can, to be generous this special time of year. It feels great!