Left Justified: Suggested places to drop your money during the holiday season

Left Justified: Suggested places to drop your money during the holiday season

By Stanley Campbell

A lot of folks decide to give big chunks of change to nonprofit organizations at the end of the year. I don’t know if it’s because of the holiday spirit, or because of tax write-offs, but at least there’s attention paid to non-profit organizations and causes. My suggestion is, give your funds to groups where your hard-earned cash makes a difference.

My favorite group is the Harm Reduction Outreach. They work with people society arrests, throws in jail and often wants to die of the horrible diseases that infect the street sex provider and IV drug user. Started in 1996, they now exchange more than 10,000 syringes and distribute twice as many condoms and put them in the hands of the people who need them the most.

The new director, J. Bryan Latham, is a whiz at outreach. He’s persuaded some people to quit their evil ways and stop doing nasty deeds to themselves. In spite of all the good work, Harm Reduction still does not receive federal funding and probably won’t for quite a while. So any donation you give will make a big difference in this poorly funded, low-cost but incredibly effective outreach. The address is: Harm Reduction Outreach, 614 Seventh St., Rockford, Ill., 61104. It’s a part-time operation but full-time job. You can call and leave a message at (815) 961-1269.

Now don’t get me wrong—if you’re giving to United Way or Salvation Army, or any of the other large community programs, please keep it up. But consider putting your money into those effective but ill-funded programs that need an extra boost just to stay open and operating.

Another one of my favorite groups, albeit a more artsy-fartsy program, is the Storefront Cinema at the Rockford Museum Center. This little theater has 100 seats and shows everything from African and Iranian films with subtitles to Three Stooges, and revives movies of Cary Grant and Bugs Bunny. Storefront also hosts the Rock River Alternative Film and Video Festival (the best to be shown Dec. 6-8). This little dynamo is the only independently owned projection booth not under the thumb of Kerasotes, who’s so powerful that they don’t have to advertise in The Rock River Times because you should know through osmosis what films are on their screens. Send a donation to the Rockford Film Project at 711 N. Main St., Rockford, Ill., 61103. For more information, you can call (815) 962-3456 (962-FILM). Remember, a little money goes a long way with these organizations, and if you give them a big contribution, they will remember you for the rest of your life.

Speaking of the rest of your life, realize that we all end up in a grave. Not to be too morbid, but our end is in sight, at least on an individual basis. “Nobody gets out of this alive,” as one of the pundits says. So maybe giving donations to non-profits covers a multitude of sins. You can leave a memorial to you and your family and at the same time do some little good for the world that you’re living in. We seem to spend so much time making money and paying our bills and, especially here in Rockford, people want to do the right thing but are afraid of getting ripped off. And I don’t blame them with the advent of televangelism, hucksterism, infomercials and phony businesses running so many scams. People have to be careful.

General rules for giving donations: Give to groups that you know! If you can walk into a building and see the activity, like teachers teaching and kids learning, and you want to help, then give the money right there. If you see something on television with televangelists in their fancy suits and their plush studios telling you to give, I’d suggest don’t. Giving locally is more secure. But you can also ask for financial statements from organizations you’re not familiar with. If they say no, you say no. The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has lots of information about giving and how to give wisely.

Your generosity will outlive all of your other faults. So I urge you to be generous during this holiday season. Doing simple things like giving a donation helps the community to grow, compassion to prosper, and love to surround us. Those are my wishes for you at the beginning of this Thanksgiving season.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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