How You Can Make a Difference

As the year draws to a close, think about those less fortunate than yourselves.

December 30, 2004 -- To many, the holiday season means family gatherings and decadent meals, a time when people reunite and offer gratitude for the blessings in their lives.

But what about the less fortunate? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.5 percent of all Americans fell below the poverty rate in 2003, meaning as many as 35.9 million people may not be having such a happy holiday. The poverty rate for America's children rose too, from 16.7 percent in 2002 to 17.6 percent in 2003--a rate that's among the highest in the industrialized world.

There are many charities that help families living in poverty to get food, healthcare, and basic living supplies. The ones listed below all rank within the top 100 biggest nonprofits.

Some smaller but equally powerful children's charities may not have the money or resources to publicize their efforts. You can find a select list here:

America's Second Harvest:

Their mission is to create a hunger-free America. They distribute food and grocery products through a nationwide network of certified affiliates, increase public awareness of domestic hunger, and advocate for policies that benefit America's hungry.

Children's Defense Fund:

A private, nonprofit organization that works toward reducing the numbers of neglected, sick, uneducated, and poor children in the United States. Their mission is to meet the needs of children and their parents by building on the strengths and sense of fairness of the American people, learning from the best public and private ideas and successes, and moving forward to a renewed commitment to all our children.

Children's International:

This organization is dedicated to improving the lives of children living in dire poverty. Children's International provides needy children with a variety of programs and services to meet their basic needs, enhance their human dignity, and raise their physical and educational levels in a meaningful, lasting way.

Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE):

CARE works with poor communities in more than 70 countries around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty. With a broad range of programs, CARE seeks to tap human potential and leverage the power of individuals and communities to unleash a vast force for progress.

Feed the Children:

The mission of Feed The Children is to deliver food, medicine, clothing, and other necessities to families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster.

National Head Start Association:

A private not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to meeting the needs of Head Start children and their families. Head Start is a national program that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

Salvation Army:

The Salvation Army is dedicated to caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, loving the unlovable, and befriending the friendless. This dedication has produced an international network of helpful ministries.

Save the Children:

A nonprofit humanitarian relief and development organization working in more than 40 countries and the United States to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need.

Project HOPE:

The name Health Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) is reflected in its mission, which is to achieve sustainable advances in health care around the world by implementing health education programs, conducting health policy research, and providing humanitarian assistance in areas of need.

Volunteers of America:

From rural America to inner-city neighborhoods, Volunteers of America provides outreach programs that deal with today's most pressing social needs. Volunteers of America helps youths at risk, frail elderly, abused and neglected children, people with disabilities, homeless individuals and many others.

NOTE: You don't have to go national or international to make a difference?there are plenty of charities working hard right in your local area. To find out where to donate in your neighborhood, you can consult your local Chamber of Commerce, or you can consult agencies such as the Urban Institute or the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. These agencies can put you in touch with the right resources in your state, which in turn can direct you on a local level.

Additionally, a national database of nonprofit organizations can be found at:

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