Monday, March 20, 2006

What to donate when you have something to give away

Since beginning to volunteer for both a women's shelter and an animal rescue, I've come to the realization that a lot of people donate without ever thinking that perhaps the recipient organization may need something other than what you're willing to give. Sure money is good, but real tangible items are sometimes desired oddly enough.

Take for instance the women's shelter. The women who come to live there often appeared with only what they could carry with them at the time. Sometimes there is time to pack more, especially when she has 4 kids, but even then it's only what is absolutely necessary. This means, when they leave, often into Section 8 or government subsidized housing, they will need household items to make them feel more at home.

This is where giving money to the actual organization only serves to help the women and their children while they are living in the shelter, but does nothing for them individually. If you were to donate, say, dishes, salt and pepper shakers, towels, lamps, etc., you could help get them started into living a life on their own without their abusers. This kind of giving goes a long way but do keep in mind space and/or storage issues.

Couches are always a nice thing to have, but you may have an organization in your area that takes such things as these, tables and the like in order to give them to those who need it most for free. We have one here but I haven't found it yet unfortunately.

Also, I belong to an online community called Freecycle where I can often find stuff for free to bring to the women at the shelter. Every once in a while I get some really good clothes or household items for the women and/or their children. (Recently, I asked for a Snugli and got 3.)

Do keep in mind that donations, such as your time, are needed year round, not just at Christmas or when the tax season is about to end. When I discussed volunteerism with the woman in charge of it at the shelter, she expressed this need greatly. She also added that, at Christmas, she actually had to start turning people away.

Another thought is to spend a few hours a week in the shelter or even a few hours a month. You could also come in and cook a house dinner; they love that kind of thing. Hell, even if you bring in a bunch of pizzas you would be warmly welcomed.

This advice can apply to just about anywhere with humans such as the homeless shelters in your city. We have three here but I'm already spreading myself pretty thin, ;). Sometimes there is an AIDS/HIV support program that could use a set of hands a few hours a week or month. You never know 'til you ask, right?

As for SPCA's, animal rescues and animal shelters, it's quite simple. They prefer monetary donations or sometimes you can specifically sponsor an animal. This is because vet care gets to be expensive and they'll save any dog worth saving. Trust me, having to cut off a limb or remove an eye doesn't stop them.

What they also need is volunteers to walk the dogs, sit and play with the cats, help to clean out kennels and cat boxes, etc. Doesn't sitting in a room with a bunch of kitties, allowing them to interact socially with humans (which is a plus as it increases their chances of getting adopted), sound like fun! And seriously, if you're as big a dog lover as Peanut and I, walking the dogs and playing with them is great therapy, too. There are days when I just go to the Dog House and sit amongst the kitties or doggies, the latter licking or hugging me for at least 10 minutes.

There is also a great need for transport, such as what Peanut and I did on Thursday. Cheap spay/neuter programs aren't always close by so Peanut and I transport the huskies to Richmond and back home again since we commute to Richmond daily from where the huskies actually live.

Animal rescues need the most help, I think, because they are generally run solely by volunteers to begin with. A lot of time and effort (and sometimes money) goes into taking care of a bunch of dogs at a time so that they can definitely find forever homes instead of only having a 3-6 week window.

For those of you with children, ask and your kids might be able to come along, too. The only exception might if your state has an age-specific law. Here in Virginia, it's a law that volunteer's have to be over 14. (Peanut mostly jumps on the trampoline or holds a Cat Voting School when we're hanging out with the animals.)


These are just suggestions and a way to move forward. There is so much out there that needs to be done so why not volunteer a little bit of your time to help shape the future, even if it's just a little bit? This can mean donating your blood and/or platelets to giving all your unwanted books to women and men in jail to participating in a Relay for Life or some other rally for a worthy cause (one that you deem worthy even).

P.S. I laughed when I wrote this because last summer, my now Non-Friend S. asked me when I was gonna do some activism that summer because she didn't think I was doing enough for women's reproductive choice. *sigh*

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