All politics aside, is anyone else tired of Congress not actually doing anything?
Well, if you’re feeling powerless against an incompetent government, you might want to consider doing what you can on a local level. We’ve discussed at length what one can do for personal preparation in times of hardship, but I’d like to dedicate this post to what we can do for OTHERS in times of hardship, with a primary focus on how to give.
I’m always surprised at my few experiences with charity as to what people give in an attempt to be charitable. A quick glimpse of a donation box for a food drive, and you may be surprised too, perhaps even thinking to yourself, “Who is going to eat that?”
I’d like to highlight some tips for being charitable.
It begins with an understanding of what it means to be impoverished. Many people who need charitable donations work low-paying jobs, and often have children, though our veterans and seniors are a growing part of that population. Many of these people work long hours. They may live with other members of their non-nuclear family (think parents, cousins, in-laws, etc.). You’ll also find many disabled citizens accepting charity. Holidays are exceptionally hard for folks- whether or not they have children. All of this paints a picture of our fellow Americans who need a little extra help- our neighbors and friends.
Furthermore, it is very important to break down stereotypes about people who need charitable donations. I’m not going to highlight those stereotypes, but suffice to say, you can’t buy pot with Foodstamps.
Without further delay, here are my recommendations:
How to charitably donate food:
A full Foodstamp benefit for a single person ranges from $4-7 per day, depending on the state. The more income a person makes, the lower their benefit. A person’s benefit is effected by factors such as utility bills, rent, childcare, and family composition. It is not effected by car insurance or motor vehicle costs (unless you’re in college), or health needs (re: food allergies). Most people who face hard budgeting choices are forced to shop at dollar bargain stores and places like Walmart and do not need items from these places because they get their food their already- they need a hand UP. They often cannot afford “luxury” food items like convenience foods or fresh produce.
What to donate- Impoverished people can afford foods like Cup of Noodles, Ramen noodles, chips, soda, Hamburger/Chicken Helper, and cheap frozen microwave foods. If you’re looking to donate non-perishable foods, consider donating ingredients for cooking, such as sugar, oil, salt, flour, yeast packets, spices, chocolate chips, baking mixes, baking powder, etc. Other preferred items are canned soups, children’s special snacks such as pudding or fruit cups, Poptarts, or real fruit snacks (freeze dried fruit pouches!), granola bars, popcorn, beans, rice cakes, pretzels, whole grain high quality cereals, granola or oats, crackers, jam, pasta, rice, tea or coffee, shelf-stable creamer, sauces (bbq, soy sauce, Worchester sauce. etc.), quality canned fruits and vegetables without excessive additives, nuts, taco shells, etc.
Other specialty items- Remember the plight of parents with food allergies or children with food allergies. Their food items cost even MORE, causing children often to go without things like gluten free cookies or low-sodium snacks. Consider donating gluten free, sugar free, or allergen free items, or substitutes like all-purpose gluten free flour or sugar replacements.
Things no one thinks of- While you’re at the grocery store, consider that some things that people forget to donate are needed the most. These include but are not limited to toilet paper, diapers, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, floss, children’s toothpaste, cosmetics or nail polish, tin foil, plastic bags, pet food or pet supplies (like cat litter), feminine hygiene supplies, deodorant, hair styling products, shampoo and conditioner, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, trash bags, dish soap, batteries/flashlights, coffee filters, razors, perfume, unopened over-the counter meds like Tylenol, children’s medicines, Vicks, cough drops, Motrin, Advil, and even condoms, etc.
How to donate clothing:
What not to donate- Shirts with a hole in them (shirts with holes are hard to mend), very outdated clothes, shoes that are in worse condition than what you’re currently wearing, jeans with large holes/blown out knees or crotches, anything with a stain larger than a quarter, anything that has been misshapen (ie shrunken sweaters or stretched out shirts), clothes with overall irreversible damage.
What to donate- baby and children’s clothing, work clothing, maternity/nursing clothing, shoes, unstained socks, unworn underpants, good condition bras, snowpants/snowgear, hats/mittens/scarves, formal wear that can be worn to special occasions (think graduation or dinner), men’s clothing (and ties), thermal clothing, pajamas, etc.
How to donate hard-goods:
Just quick reminder that impoverished people can already afford dollar store toys. Toys that break easy, toys that go through batteries quickly, or toys that require special equipment (like videogames) are not helpful. Warped or rusted kitchen items (except iron skillets) like pans or containers, or storage containers without lids aren’t very useable. Mixed up, broken, or tacky household decorations aren’t useful either.
What to donate- Useful kitchen items such as pans, cutlery, cooking utensils, dishes, mugs/glasses, storage containers, sponges, baking items (think muffin tins and casseroles), kitchen appliances that work (especially mixers, coffee makers, toasters, and microwaves) household fans, dehumidifiers/humidifiers, space heaters, electric blankets, curtains, sheets, table cloths, pillows, area rugs, shower curtains and liners with hooks, bathmats, lamps, office supplies (pens, paper, notebooks, school supplies, etc.), movie-watching items, household furniture (especially bureaus and beds), mattress covers (for bedbug prevention), radios, toys with all of the pieces, baby items, vacuums, toothbrush holders and soap dishes, nightlights, light bulbs, hangers, framed pictures, carefully stored and good condition household decorations, furniture covers, etc.
Last but not least, don’t forget that your time and money are always appreciated as well. Food pantries, animal shelters, and schools all rely heavily on volunteers. Please note that I speak on this matter personally and from experience, so if this post offends anyone, I offer my deepest apologies.