ASK AMYDear Readers: This is my favorite time of year. I love how the twinkle lights and dancing candy canes push the winter gloom away. Most importantly, the holiday season is a time to revive and remember the annual idea that a miracle is somehow just around the corner.
If you are inspired by this idea and believe that we create brighter futures for one another through sharing our gifts and talents, then please peruse my annual charity roundup for ideas on giving. As always, this is a list representing my interests and passions. My intention is to inspire readers to dig deep this year and give what you can.
All of the charities I recommend are highly rated (out of four stars) on Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org). Charity Navigator helpfully categorizes nonprofits according to many different metrics and offers a transparent system for assessing these organizations. Readers should use this (and other tools) to research any organization thoroughly before committing to support it.
Shelterbox USA: The idea behind Shelterbox is ingenious and profound. The organization ships a box containing a tent (large enough for 10 people), a water purification system, a small cook stove and other living necessities to people displaced by natural disasters. I donated a box after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines; people can track their donated box as it is brought to the site by the Shelterbox team. www.shelterboxusa.org
Direct Relief: This California organization was founded and run by Eastern European immigrants after World War II to help provide for civilians after war. Now Direct Relief donates and ships medical supplies to local clinics in 59 countries and to clinics serving needy populations in the U.S. www.directrelief.org
Save the Children: For a dollar a day, you can sponsor a needy child for a year. Shopping in their online store, you can buy a goat or a hive of honeybees for an impoverished family, donate school supplies, medical care or the means for clean water for displaced people. www.savethechildren.org
Meals on Wheels: This cause offers two essential elements for good health to vulnerable people: nutrition and human contact. Check the national organization for ways to donate and links to your local programs. www.mowaa.org
The arts: A vivid culture cannot survive without the arts. Please support cultural and arts education programs in your own community by attending live performances and events and by donating your time, talent and money.
Send questions to email@example.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.