By Jill Gurr

Many people are suffering through this horrible economic recession. They’re trying to find work or terrified about losing their jobs. Even with money safe in their bank accounts, they worry about spending it and then having to face a catastrophic situation later. People squirrel their funds, carefully guarding it for a “rainy day.”

That rainy day is now pouring down on millions of people all over our country. Families are losing their homes, left destitute on the streets. Emergency shelters and food pantries have to turn people away. Hospitals and clinics overflow with patients suffering from H1N1 and other diseases. Many people are forced to give up their pets. Military families worry about their loved ones serving overseas. Substance abuse is escalating, along with domestic violence and child neglect.

There are 1.4 million charities in the United States. These varied organizations give essential services to the downtrodden. Nonprofits keep the wheels turning in medical research, save lives during disasters, protect our environment and keep people and animals from harm. Unfortunately, donations are down, yet demand is way up.

Here is how you can help:

• Donate cash – 70-80% of the funding that charities use to provide social services comes from people like you reaching into their pockets and helping out. Whether you give $1, $10 or $100, you can make a huge impact on your community by donating to a worthy charity that depends on supporters like you.

• Donate in-kind gifts – If you’re on the fence about upgrading your computer or getting a new car, give your old one to your favorite charity. Anything that is useable or working is like money to a nonprofit. Clothing helps people who have lost their homes. Books educate. Stuff you might consider junk could be like gold to someone in need.

• Volunteer – Contribute a few hours a week to helping out. Serve food at a shelter, clean and paint a struggling school. Run a bake sale or a car wash to raise funds. Help with promoting your charities’ good deeds. Mentor a child or a group of kids in how to cook, hike or play guitar.

With  Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa upon us, many impoverished people feel even more depressed about their struggles. They’re in great need of some holiday cheer. If we all give even just a little bit, we can make a big difference. Since we’re fast approaching the end of the year and all indicators show that the economy is improving, reach into your pocketbook, your possessions and your time, but especially reach into your heart.

Jill Gurr is the Founder and Executive Director of Create Now, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1996 that helps transform the lives of high-risk and at-risk youth through creative arts mentoring, education, resources and opportunities. Learn more at
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