Do you want to donate for maximum effectiveness for those in need? Here is what I have learned in working with Food Shelters.
Donate money instead of food. Food is always helpful, but the problem is that the needs of the clients don’t always match up with what is donated. The fact is that every area is different. You can’t match the needs of any charity better than by giving money.
Donate things that don’t expire quickly. Too often baked goods, expired food, or fruits/vegetables go bad too quickly before they can be used. When food shelters get these foods they try to use them immediately, but it doesn’t always work. So many times baked goods for example have to be thrown out because they go stale so quickly.
If you have time, call the charity and ask what they need. Remember what I said about matching the needs of the charity? There are always items that charities rarely receive. Examples of this are cooking oil, baby food, seasonings even simple ones like salt & pepper.
Donate all year. The clients need to eat every day, yet most of the donations come during the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The shelves get very bare outside of those peak donation times, and it makes it very difficult for people to have meals every day.
If you can’t afford to donate, then please donate your time. Too many times the money isn’t there to pay for staff for those in need. They depend on volunteers and volunteers are fickle. It is really sad when so many things that need to be done aren’t done, and people suffer for it. For example, many times I have seen that the meals and or needs that aren’t met mean that people go hungry and get sick. Yes life is difficult for everyone, but we all can help those who are least able to help themselves.
It is touching when you see people who give of themselves and don’t count the cost. I had the privilege once to see a small girl about 5 and her mom come into charity loaded down with grocery bags. I overheard her mom say “Sally saved her money all year and we bought these groceries for everyone here to have.” I heard Sally say “I bought it myself.” She was so happy she could do this for others.
It is a wonderful thing that if you ever get the chance to volunteer, you see the goodness in others. That same day I was continuously doing jobs and helping in whatever way I could. The other workers there were older, and even when they were tired they still were motivated to help. It was impressive to see that for some people they are willing to put in whatever effort is required. Time after time, donation came through the door.
There are many gifts when you give your time. Many people sincerely thanked you, and the ones who didn’t you could see their reasons for needing the help. The reason was as obvious as a broken cart, a small child, an old coat, a difficulty not knowing English.
Choices are interesting aren’t they? I don’t judge anyone for choices they make. I have made plenty of choices that weren’t in my best interest. I think we have to give others a wide berth of forgiveness and space to find out who they are. It is far too easy to judge based on appearances, when it is only the long-term that matters.
The long-term on the girl who gave to others is very good. The long-term on everyone is working to improve is good. The short-term is often difficult for people, but with help we can all help each other get through those times.