Though Halloween hasn’t passed yet, you’re probably thinking ahead to November and December — better known as the season of giving. Around Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for the people in our lives and the good fortunes that we have — the roofs over our heads, the food in our refrigerators and the other simple pleasures we enjoy. In December, no matter what holiday we celebrate, we take extra time to treasure what can’t be bought — quality time with family and friends.
But not everyone is able to enjoy these simple pleasures and treasures around the holiday season. Some do not have permanent housing. Others struggle to put food on the table every day. Some families have loved ones fighting cancer and others have few presents to give to their children. For these people, we celebrate the season of giving by giving back when we have so much.
You likely already give back every holiday season (and hopefully throughout the year), and while there are great charities and nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society and the Salvation Army, you may want to focus on helping people within your own community.
There are plenty of nonprofits in Houston that could use your help. Here are our favorite charities in Houston to give to this holiday season, as well as a few tips for donating goods and how to research charities in Houston.
Houston Food Bank
If you’ve never experienced true hunger or had to wonder whether you’d be able to feed yourself and your family the next day, count yourself very fortunate. Many others in Houston, however, aren’t as fortunate, and they’re in need of serious help.
By far one of the largest food banks in the country, Houston Food Bank provides hunger relief for people living in 18 counties in southern Texas. It’s part of the Feeding America network, and it has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator (see below for more on this). According to its website, Houston Food Bank feeds 800,000 people annually distributes over 100 million meals every year.
While you can and should donate food (find out how below), you should also consider a monetary donation. The Houston Food Bank provides a number of free programs to those experiencing food insecurity. Through the food bank, the Kids Cafe provides free meals and snacks to low-income children at various sites around Houston. Thanks to this program, children across Houston have access to healthy and warm meals and snacks while in after-school programs.
Like many major cities across the U.S., Houston has a homeless population in need of help to get a roof over their heads. The Beacon helps thousands of people every year achieve that goal through a variety of avenues.
Every day, The Beacon’s day center welcomes homeless people from all over Houston. Here they can meet with experts who will help assess each person’s need and connect them to resources within the organization. The day center will also provide a hot meal as well as access to a hot shower. For many, the day center is the first step for many people whether they were previously incarcerated, fleeing an abusive home or struggling with an addition.
In addition to the day center, The Beacon provides legal aide as well as access to a mail box, ID resources, transportation services and health care.
Kids In Need of Defense Houston (KIND)
Whatever you think of immigration at the moment, there are still thousands of children coming across the border fleeing some of the worst conditions imaginable. Many are fleeing gangs, poverty and natural disasters. They come to the U.S. looking for a safe place to call home, and Kids in Need of Defence (KIND) provides them with the help they need to navigate the U.S. court system.
KIND gives high-quality legal representation to children coming to the U.S. These law firms, corporations and law schools provide pro bono help to unaccompanied children and refugees to make sure that none of these children have to face immigration courts alone. KIND also works to promote laws, policies and practices to ensure these children are protected and have a fair trial and right to due process.
American Civil Liberties Union Texas
You likely recognize this national organization, but in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union does a lot to protect the rights of other when their civil liberties are violated. Many of their cases help people facing racial and gender discrimination and fight for all types of equality from racial to LGBTQ.
Though society has come a long way in accepting the LGBTQ community, many still struggle to find acceptance at home, school and work. Teens especially are at risk for mental health issues when their families don’t accept them, whether they’re gay or transgender.
For those teens, members of the LGBTQ community and really anyone struggling with mental health, Montrose Center aims to provide positive care and empower them to live healthy, fulfilling lives. The center provides access to state-licensed clinicians as well as therapists, educators and supportive staff members that provide behavioral and supportive help to anyone in the LGBTQ community that needs it.
Montrose Center also provides meeting and event space available to rent at a low cost. This gives LGBTQ groups around the city a safe space to have group meetings and other events without fear.
Supporting with goods
Not all nonprofits in Houston require cash donations. You may have other goods around your home that could help charities in Houston in other ways. Now monetary donations should be part of your holiday plan to give back, but there could be other gently used goods around your home that may do good for someone else.
Here are a few goods to watch out for and where to drop them off.
Very gently used clothing
Have you ever bought a shirt or sweater, worn it maybe once or twice and then decided that it wasn’t really your look? The tags are off, and it’s too late to return it. So instead, it just sits in your closet, waiting for you to finally drop it off at a Goodwill.
Now Goodwill is always an option, but wouldn’t you rather your nice clothing go to someone who really needs it? That’s where Dress for Success comes in. A nonprofit in Houston that helps women find financial independence through professional attire, job development and support, Dress for Success will accept clothing donations that will go to women in need of professional attire for a job.
Dress for Success accepts suits, professional attire, closed-toed shoes, handbags, hosiery and scarves. All donations must be dry cleaned, pressed and delivered on hangers. From nice purses you no longer use or professional scarves you no longer wear, these items could help other women in Houston land great jobs and feel good about the way they look.
Remember, all donations should be in very good condition. That means no holes, no stains and nothing too far out of fashion.
We already mentioned that Houston Food Bank is one of the best nonprofits in Houston to donate to during the holiday season, but you can also donate food rather than money to the food bank if you have it.
Before you start emptying your pantry, keep these tips in mind when donating food:
- Never donate anything that’s already open. Finish it yourself or give it to a friend if you don’t want it any more.
- Donate shelf-stable proteins. Canned tuna and chicken as well as vegetarian proteins such as beans and peanut butter can go a long way for food banks. Proteins help you feel full in a healthy way — not in an artificial one like with chips or cookies — and they provide a lot of essential nutrients, which kids definitely need.
- Focus on easy bases: Food banks want to create menus that are both healthy and filling. Staples such as rice and pasta give chefs at food banks the flexibility to create all sorts of healthy dishes that are different every day. Focus on whole wheat pastas and rices as well as oatmeals and quinoa.
- Make it a holiday donation. Food banks also give out food for families to take home. When you’re out shopping for your own holiday dinner, pick up a few extra boxes of stuffing, cranberry sauce or canned pumpkin. You’ll help another family have a delicious holiday dinner.
- Avoid the pricer, niche products. When shopping, think about items that can make more than one dish. Uncommon spices may be nice to have, but oregano and cinnamon can go a lot farther. Don’t forget salt and pepper too.
There is such a thing as having too many towels. You probably bought a few extra when you had children just in case, or maybe you have some of your towels so long that they actually look out of date and out of style — think lots of lace or frills. But those towels don’t have to keep taking up space in your linen closet. In fact, they could do a lot of good for rescue charities in Houston.
Animal rescues often take gently used towels, and those towels will do a world of good for a lot of animals. Some will be used for giving dog baths. Others will warm animals when they’re rescued from abusive homes. With so many pets coming in and out of animal rescues, those towels take a lot of abuse, so having extras on hand will help a lot of scared cats and dogs.
There are plenty of great animal rescues in Houston, so check out a few of these:
Before you drop off any towels, call these charities in Houston to make sure that they’re accepting donations. They may have too many donations, so call ahead to make sure your donation will help, not burden, a nonprofit in Houston.
How do you know which nonprofits in Houston are the best?
As with any donation, you need to do your research to make sure that the money you give actually goes to the people or cause you want to help. Some of the bigger charities in Houston may have worthy causes, but a small portion of the money donated actually goes to furthering that cause. A big portion goes towards marketing and paying salaries for the higher-ups.
All charities in Houston, of course, need to pay the people working for them, but with a little research, you’d be surprised how little of your donation actually goes towards the cause.
- Research all charities before donating. A quick Google search of the name of the charity should bring up any articles about problems within the charity or any potential concerns. You can also search local news sites to see if anything has been written about the charity in question.
- Try searching a database. Sites like charitynavigator.org helps people make smart decisions when giving. You’ll be able to pull up financial documents that nonprofits in Houston have filed. Charity Navigator tells you exactly how it rates its charities. The transparency will give you peace of mind.
- Volunteer. Want to know how charities in Houston really operate? Start volunteering with some of the great nonprofits in houston. It’s an easy way to keep giving back all year round, and you’ll always feel comfortable donating money to a charity that works hard to fulfill its mission.
The holiday season will be here before you know it. While you probably have a running list of what your family wants to give, make sure you save some room to donate to one of the many great charities in Houston. When you give to help others, you’ll make it easier for them to get back on their feet — and start giving back just like you.
Share with us: What are some of your favorite nonprofits in Houston? Tell us in the comments — we want to hear your holiday donation stories!