Most people are happy to help the less fortunate, especially at holiday time. But with close to a million nonprofits in America, each with its own compelling cause, it can be hard to tell who deserves your contribution the most. Because it takes so much time to sift through detailed information about a charity, we tend to either give to the one who asks first or to the same groups every year.
Unfortunately, some children's charities that do incredible work never make it onto our radar screen because they simply don't have the manpower or the money to publicize their efforts. We've identified ten such gems. You may never have heard of these organizations, but we hope you'll be inspired to add them to your holiday list.Newborns in Need
Clothing for the tiniest children
Four years ago, single mom Sue T. delivered her son Daron 14 weeks early. She was poor, alone, and by her own admission, "jaded and cynical." After searching everywhere for affordable clothing that would fit her preemie, she learned about Newborns in Need, which provides clothing and blankets for poor and premature babies.
"When the boxes arrived with the supplies I needed, it restored my faith in humanity," Sue recalls. Her situation improved, and today, she is a volunteer with the organization, helping other women and infants.
Last year, Newborns in Need volunteers distributed more than 350,000 pieces of clothing and baby gear to 2,000 hospitals, shelters, and families across the country. The organization is looking for donations of blankets, sleepers, gowns, all-in-ones, hats, booties, bottles, pacifiers, and disposable diapers. Contact: 417-967-9441 or www.newbornsinneed.org.
More than food for hungry kids
We've all seen the images on the television news: starving children in faraway places like the Congo, Ethiopia, and Liberia. But the fact is, kids in America are starving too. Close to 13 million children in our own country are at serious risk of being undernourished.
Share Our Strength supports food banks and emergency-relief organizations, and works to address hunger's root causes. It teaches low-income families about nutrition and budgeting, helps enroll poor children in federal nutrition programs, and funds groups that teach job and life skills to impoverished families. One of its programs encourages people to donate one hour's wage to battle childhood hunger. Another initiative helps communities hold fund-raisers to benefit hungry kids. Contact: 800-969-4767 or www.strength.org.
Safe playgrounds for everyone
When 3-year-old Faith Tinoco was starting school back in 2002, her parents were worried that their daughter, born with Down syndrome, wouldn't be able to play along with the other kids at Melody Park Christian School, in Salinas, California. A year earlier, there would have been cause for concern: The school's playground equipment was outdated and inappropriate for Faith's needs.
But thanks to an organization called Kaboom!, Faith's school had just acquired a new playground -- one that was completely safe and handicapped-accessible. Since 1995, Kaboom! has teamed up with corporate partners to create 546 playgrounds in cities and towns across the country at an average cost of $55,000 each. It has also improved 1,500 existing playgrounds to make them safer. Contact: 202-659-0215 x225 or www.kaboom.org.