Christmas is a looming seven days away and that means I really should start thinking about shopping for all the good little girls and boys on my list.
Ugh, every year I dramatically proclaim, "I will begin saving and shopping for holiday cheer beginning in February of this year," give or take a few poorly executed Seussical rhymes along the way.
Alas, the time has come again where I can't bury my head in the snow any longer. Time to pull out the ol' pocket book, throw on the thinking (Santa) cap, and hit the mall.
Or is it?
Last year in a last minute holiday panic I struck a chord of gift giving genius. I decided to donate money to various charities that focused their efforts on military veterans, in honor of my late grandfather Ken. It not only felt great knowing the gift would help those in need, but both my grandmother and I fought back tears as she read the donations in honor of her husband.
That moment encompassed what had been missing in so many of my Christmases past. Giving not to equal what I was anticipated to receive, but to give because it is what felt right in my heart. The moments it took to research various charities, enter my credit card information and my grandfather's name was more than any swipe of my card at the mall could give me or my grandma.
There are so many wonderful charitable organizations in the United States and our immediate area. More than I ever could imagine, actually. In one search I conducted in researching this article, I came up with over 5,000 results in the vicinity of southeastern Wisconsin. Of course there are the ones we all know and love, but what about the little guys in our local charitable community? They need support and love too, especially this time of year. Here are a few that resonated with me, and I hope they will with you too.
Cream City Foundation, 759 N. Milwaukee Street Suite 212, describes itself as a catalyst for social change on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Since 1982 the foundation has been doing just that, having spun-off from the Cream City Business Association, which was established to promote entrepreneurship and support for businesses in the LGBT community. Since it's humble beginnings it has grown to provide over $700,000 in grant dollars to organizations working to improve the quality of life for LGBT citizens.
Maria Cadenas, the Executive Director, told me the foundation is just $2,500 short of a $10,000 matching grant generously offered by local philanthropist Joseph Pabst. That's some holiday cheer if I've ever heard of it! Gifts must be made by December 31st of this year, so time is of the essence. It's like Santa Pabst is daring you to give just in time for him to scurry down the chimney. Let's not let him down.
A friend of mine recently introduced me to a Facebook fan page titled "Super Gimp". Of course, being the tongue-in-cheek gal that I am, I was intrigued. Turns out "Super Gimp", since renamed The Ability Center Inc., www.abilitycenterwi.org, is an organization dedicated to providing athletic and fitness programming to those children and adults with physical and or developmental disabilities.
Or "disABILITIES" as founder and Executive Director Damian Buchman, proudly states. Damian, a survivor of childhood cancer, is on a mission to bring the Super Gimp name to a series of competitive teams for disabled athletes, as well as introduce his A.S.A.P. program (Adaptive Scholastic Athletic Programming) directly into schools for 6th-12th graders. But wait, Santa, don't put your list away just yet, Damian isn't finished. His one big wish this coming year is to open The Ability Center, a 140,000 square foot facility providing recreational, competitive and therapeutic athletic programming to all those with disabilities. The center will give those with limited opportunities the same athletic experiences as "able" bodied athletes. With a push of the "donate" button on his website, you can step into Santa's shoes and help make that holiday wish a reality, for so many disabled girls and boys.
I'm very fortunate in that I have limited personal experiences with cancer. But even being pardoned (for now) by the epidemic, it's impossible to turn a blind eye to the many stories of the effects of disease. Thus, I was struck by what I found when I stumbled upon Kathy's House, 600 North 103rd Street, a home built with the sole purpose to provide hospitality to family members of those receiving medical treatment in the Milwaukee area. Kathy's House was founded in memory of Kathy Kuettner who passed away in 2000 after a long battle with lymphoma. Exactly one year later her friends and family opened the doors of this home away from home in her honor.
Kathy's House is located in a quiet residential neighborhood and provides all the comforts of home to family members who make the trek to Wisconsin to support their loved ones in the most delicate of times. The house is home to eighteen guest suites which all include their own bathroom, television, mini-fridge and generous storage. On site there is a library, a computer station (as well as wi-fi throughout the property), a spacious and sunny kitchen, and a cozy media room. There is a van available to chauffeur guest to and from hospital visits and errand runs.
All the above is provided without charge to guests. It's an amazing organization that tirelessly works to bring comfort and warmth to times that are anything but. Herb Ayers, the Director of Operations, says Kathy's House's needs are very basic. Financial support is always appreciated, as is household supplies and food. Volunteers are also essential help with office work and to ensure guests are comfortable and safe. This Christmas it's sobering to envision there are families far from home, away from their tree and ornaments, their families unwrapping presents, bearing the unknown to care for their loved ones. Milwaukee is so blessed to have an organization like Kathy's House to soften their trepidations and prove home is truly where the heart is.
A new charitable kid on the block is Karma Kash, www.karmakash.net. It's a clever idea by founder and all around good guy, John Mosey, who describes it as "a group that is trying to encourage people to volunteer more." Frankly, it's one of those ideas where you find yourself in a spontaneous face palm wondering why someone didn't think of it sooner. Luckily Milwaukee has John Mosey behind the charity wheel.
Karma Kash is based on the concept that "no good deed goes unpunished", and in fact, by doing good deeds partnered with Karma Kash you will be rewarded in the form of discounts at local businesses. Genius, right? (Cue the inevitable face palm)
Karma Kash is still in the developmental stages, but when it's up and running (which is very soon, promises Mosey), volunteers will be issued a Karma Kash card (or 'kard'?) on which volunteer hours will be logged. Those hours can then be traded in at local establishments for discounts. The more hours donated to local charities, the better the discounts. Not that we need incentive to be good, but let's face it, it sure doesn't hurt. Right now you can head on over to the website and donate to score yourself a Premiere Charter Membership for a $20.00 donation which will secure you a personalized plastic Karma Kash Kard and help one of the more ingenious blanketed good deeds get it's start in the charitable world.
Tis the season for good tidings & cheer. It's also the season of giving. If you're stuck in a mall-rat rut, give a charitable donation a try in the name of those you love. Be it a home away from home for those struggling with disease, a foundation protecting the LGBT community from discrimination, a card offering discounts for good deeds, a survivor paving the way for those like him to showcase their abilities, or any of the other thousands of individuals hoping and praying their charity will receive a last minute Christmas wish, there is no wrong when it comes to doing right.
Really great post - remember that giving to charity may mean donating your time, your expertise, getting on a committee, talking up or coming to an event, a RT on Twitter or share for Facebook, a gift certificate or item of value, an old computer to be recycled, clothes or items dropped at a resale shop, in addition to the standard financial contribution. Oh and, btw the org I work at, in addition to any aforementioned or those not yet mentioned would be happy to be helped out now or anytime of the year :) www.independencefirst.org
2 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Sara Conrad
Published Jan. 11, 2011
Sara Hanson and Erica Elia opened Classy Girl Cupcakes in November. Here's their story.
Published Dec. 10, 2010
What in the world is a Bloody Brunch, Einstein? Well, it doesn't involve breakfasting vampires or brawling chefs. What it does involve is sampling some of the city's best Bloody Marys while raising money for local blood related charities.
Published Dec. 3, 2010
Fairy tales aren't really my thing. Until I met a woman by the name of Sandy Ploy.
Published Nov. 22, 2010
We've all have had that feeling of dread as a notice pops up informing us we were "tagged" in an unknown Facebook photo. Instead of getting carpal tunnel from clicking the "untag" button, you can spend a mere $8.99 on Funny Face Magnets. The company is based right here in Riverwest
Published Nov. 19, 2010
Sara is sick this week. Thus, in a Vicks VapoRub haze, she asked some of her most trusted sources for their "Get Well Soon" drink recipes. Here are some of the best.
Published Nov. 15, 2010
Whichever day you venture into Bay View Bowl, you'll find it's nothing less than a strike in both character and sport.
Published Nov. 12, 2010
The other day, Sara came across the controversial alcoholic energy drink, Four Loko. Apparently, college kids are freaking out on the carbonated malt beverage dubbing it "blackout in a can." Of course she had to try it.
Published Nov. 8, 2010
What the heck is Das Boot? Das Boot is a ginormous glass boot which sets you back $51 and holds 96.628 ounces of (wait for it) bloody mary.
Published Nov. 5, 2010
Recently, I was invited to dinner at Thirst & Vine, 4330 N. Oakland Ave., and let's just say I was cautiously intrigued. I'm a fan of food and I've been known to pop open a box of wine in my time, but I'm certainly no sommelier and I'm not into stuffy wine joints where swishing and sniffing are required before swigging.
Published Nov. 1, 2010
Trick or treat, that costume's neat, give me some delicious whiskey to drink. The above sums up my 2010 Halloween experience, thanks to a extraordinary time indulging in frights and fun at Whiskey Bar. Last week I was offered the chance to be a judge at the costume contest Friday night, one of three nights of the "Wicked Whiskey Weekend."