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This is the time of year when many of us think about those who are in need. Of course, we want to help, but the ability to do so can be limited by our own financial circumstances. Even with limited funds, however, there are ways to help others.
Keep it local. Call the clothing bank and ask what it needs. A few new shirts or a winter coat for a child can help a family that’s struggling. Call the food bank in your area and ask what it’s running out of. Add a few things to your own grocery cart, perhaps spending $5 on a weekly basis, and drop them off. Charities of all types are feeling the loss of donations, and they’re stretched to the limit in the goods and services they provide.
If you have the means, see about sponsoring a family for the holidays. There are privacy issues, and social-service organizations probably can’t give you the names of the recipients, but chances are you can get a list of specifics a needy family would like to have. The social-service office acts as the middleman and hands out the goods as the families come in.
Unfortunately you need to watch out for the scams that constantly surface. If you get a call, beware. Anyone can dial your phone and ask for a donation. Get specifics, like a call-back number, and ask for literature if you haven’t heard of the organization before. Check before you donate.
If you’d rather write a check to a large organization and let it decide where it should go, there are ways you can determine whether your charity dollar is likely to be used on those in need.
Here are two charity survey sites that can help you decide:
• Charity Navigator ( is a good one. Charities are rated by their efficiency at using the donated funds. You can browse by category (and sort by rating or location) or get information on a specific one by putting the charity name in the search box.
• GuideStar ( shows the Form 990 of charities. That form will help you determine how much of your donation will go to advertising and solicitations for even more donations.

Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to

In Liberty County, contacts for charities include Manna House (a food bank, though it does handle some clothing), 368-3660; United Way (a clearinghouse for other charities, but also providing some direct aid), 368-4282; and many churches also have charities.
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