Last week, I encouraged everyone reading my column to shop locally as much as possible this Christmas season.
This week, I’m encouraging everyone to do the same thing when it comes to their charitable giving.
Local charity is without a doubt the best charity and it’s the only charity I personally support or endorse.
What could be better than helping people right in your own backyard, thereby uplifting and strengthening the place you call home?
I know it’s not popular to say, given our society’s present infatuation with globaloney, but we should be more focused on meeting the needs within our own communities, instead of sending our dollars to the other side of the world. The poor aren’t just across the ocean; they’re right down the street.
My favorite local charities are Oxford-Orion FISH, the K-9 Stray Rescue League and the Free Community Meals program at the Oxford United Methodist Church (particularly on the second and fifth Wednesdays of the month when my lovely wife Connie is the chef).
To me, these causes are the essence of genuine charity. Their dedicated volunteers aren’t shy about rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to assist the struggling, the downtrodden, the voiceless, the weak and the forgotten that surround us every day.
They devote every penny they take in to serve others and fulfill their missions.
They are operated by dedicated folks filled with a burning desire to show compassion for others whether they walk on two or four legs.
Everything they do is a product of pure love. There is no selfish longing for personal gain or glory.
When it comes to these local charities, nobody receives a huge paycheck.
None of them have lavish offices.
No one travels around the country or around the world attending conferences, seminars and social functions.
They don’t distribute expensive, glossy brochures or mailers trumpeting all the good work they do. They don’t need to because the evidence and importance of what they do is all around us.
They don’t waste money on ribbons, t-shirts, bumper stickers, pins, hats, frisbees, travel mugs, water bottles, keychains, lanyards and bracelets – useless crap designed to make donors and volunteers feel better about themselves and show others how much they supposedly care.
Unfortunately, many people these days take great pleasure in literally wearing their charity on their sleeves.
The aforementioned things are why I don’t believe in donating to national charities or fashionable global causes.
I’m not saying they’re all bad or wasteful. I’m sure many do a lot of good, but when it comes to giving, I only trust what I see and what I know. And I trust groups and people in my own community more than I do the rest of the world.
I don’t want a good portion of my contributions paying for salaries, administration, prime real estate, trips, merchandise, marketing and fund-raising.
That’s not charity. That’s big business.
Actually, it’s a scam and the people perpetrating it should be publicly flogged.
To me, the likelihood of donated dollars actually reaching those who truly need them decreases as the size of the organization increases. Bigger isn’t always better.
I’d rather keep my dollars local because I can see with my own eyes where and how each and every cent is being spent.
That’s true accountability.
That’s real transparency.
For example, this week, members of the Oxford Lions Club are selling copies of the Leader and using the proceeds to create Christmas baskets containing food, clothing and toys for 89 children, adults and senior citizens living in Oxford and Addison townships.
I have absolutely no doubt the Lions will use every last penny to help the people around us who have fallen on hard times or are unable to support themselves.
I know the men and women in the Lions Club because they’re all local residents. I’ve witnessed the good they’ve done for many years because their acts are local. I trust them because of this.
To me, the best way to really help your community and make a difference in others’ lives is to offer a helping hand to your less-fortunate neighbors and provide loving homes for furry creatures who have been abandoned, abused and neglected.
Imagine what kind of a community we could have if we all did these things.
Imagine what kind of world we could have if everyone in every community did these things and took care of their own first.
Now that I’ve got you thinking about donating to local causes, here are some others worthy of consideration – Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) of North Oakland County; Learning Opportunities for Tomorrow (LOFT); Pan Equus Animal Sanctuary (PEAS); Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center; Crossroads for Youth; and Suits for Soldiers.
I’ve covered all of these programs over the years. I can personally vouch for how much good they do and how valuable they are to the community and those they serve. I trust them all, I firmly believe in their missions and I urge everyone to support their work.
Remember, Christmas isn’t about the getting, it’s about the giving.