Help me to help needy families
November 13, 2010 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Help me to help needy families

For background, I am not big on giving to charities. For over ten years I sponsored a child through Children International and I am glad to have finally ended it. All they did was constantly beg for more money and it bothered me to the point that I am actually sour over the whole experience. I know not all charities are like that, but I do not wish to be involved with any one charity like that again.

Here's what I would ideally like to do. I grew up very poor and I remember the times when the electricity or the water would be cut off. Most times we didn't have a phone in our house. Holidays were always tough but my parents found a way to make sure we had presents under the tree. I want to help other families in this position. Just one-off assistance, if that makes sense. A family is in trouble this month and really needs $100 to help with the electricity, I want to be able to help. Christmas time is coming and there are three young kids that won't be getting much, I want to give the parents $150 to help. Things like that. I have no desire to help people pay debt...that is not a genuine need.

Now, here's the kicker, and I don't mean to sound callous or mean, I have no interest in helping someone that does not want to help themselves. I have come across so many people that have no money, credit maxed out, but they are surfing the net and eating out and living gov't money for as long as they can. I know it isn't the child's fault, but I would still rather not have anything to do with people like that. I'm looking for genuine, hard-working families, that just need a little assistance to help them make ends meet.
I just remember my parents would take assistance only if when they absolutely had to, and they would never make it part of their budget (i.e. sit on welfare or gov't assistance for as long as they could). They would do everything they could to get back on their feet.

The only type of place I've come up with so far is a church...when I was young, I remember some churches that would actually help people pay their bills when they were going through tight times. But I am not part of a church and do not wish to become part of one just for this. I am not against a Christian solution; I am Christian and attribute my success to Christ...and would gladly give in His name. I just don't want to join a church just to be able to better donate.

So, all that said, my fellow me-fi nuts, do you have any advice for how I can find and help families that are genuinely in need (given all the constraints above)?

BTW, anonymous would be best, but not required.
posted by Yunani to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Modest Needs. Choose from individuals with one-off financial emergencies who have been vetted by the Modest Needs organization (not sure to what extent, but still). Your contribution gives you points which you can apply to any grant application, and you don't have to fully fund anything-- when other donors make up the difference, the money will be released.

From what I can tell many of the applications are for what you define as genuine need; there's really no way to know about whether or not a person "surfs the net" too much. If you want a higher level reassurance my only idea is to contribute anonymously to a family in need that you personally know.
posted by acidic at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

You don't have to join a church in order to give money through them. In my city, there are two organizations I've worked with who offer free mental health and/or health services to people who don't qualify for social services but are un- or under-insured. They are routinely aware of the financial needs of their clients and arrange for gas cards or grocery gift cards, etc. Both programs are run through churches, but the service providers (hundreds of volunteer physicians, therapists, nurses, etc) do not all belong to those churches.

Find a program like this. Tell the director in what ways you're interested in helping. Be specific in order to avoid requests that cross your boundaries. For example "please call me if there's a family without electricity that could be restored with $150" Or -- "I can give $100 grocery gift card 3 times a year...please call me". Or "i'd like to help a mother who is working full time in a low paying job who needs up to $250 to get her car repaired so that she can keep getting to her job"

And remember---the kids need electricity and shelter whether dad does drugs or lives off the govt or gambles. The price of being poor is increased scrutiny into every decision you make....I am confident there are far more understandable crappy life circumstances than laziness and "poor choices". If your own experiences of poverty have not been scrutinized and judged by wealthier, luckier people, than you have been blessed.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:58 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

BTW --- what you're interested in doing is inspiring.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:00 AM on November 13, 2010

In my town, there is a "mission" church organization that you are welcome to donate through as a one-off situation. I don't think they even have a congregation, I think various churches and individuals throughout the community support them. That would be exactly the kind of thing you're talking about/looking for. They have both ongoing programs (low cost preschool, women-and-children homeless shelter, tutoring, job training), holiday programs (thanksgiving dinners, Christmas tree, food drives), and specific help for individuals in trouble like what you're talking about.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2010

You don't have to join a church in order to give money through them.

Let the people say AMEN! Our church maintains a "Modest Needs" fund- donations given to the fund are given to people in need at the pastor's discretion. See if any churches around you have such things; they probably do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:34 AM on November 13, 2010

I used to work for the American Cancer Society and the local offices would sometimes have people who came to them offering to do stuff like this, basically to have the ACS office call them if there was a patient who was in dire need of something, usually a utility bill, and for which no other help was available. If you go to the ACS website (linked in this comment) and put in your zipcode, it will give you the contact info for your local chapter.
posted by elpea at 6:36 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I should add that many, many patients have kids, so you could specify that you'd prefer to help those families.
posted by elpea at 6:37 AM on November 13, 2010

I think the issue is, most charities are not going to give you personal details on the families or individuals they are helping.

Most families need to meet income guidelines in order to apply or receive aide from most charity organizations. So, even if they have internet, they're still probably in need of assistance.

When I was unemployed and had zero income, I still had the internet - I needed to make sure it was paid for (by selling my stuff) so I could apply for jobs and keep in contact with family and friends (couldn't afford cell phone bill) - so that was a priority for me.
Credit cards could be maxed out because they've been buying food and clothing with them since they are no money.

Organizations I have donated to in the past were New

-England Center For Homeless Veterens
in Boston for the "adopt-a-vet" holiday program. Maybe theres something like that where you live.
-Salvation Army's "Adopt-A-Family"
-Neighbor Aide Contribution on my utility bills - check to see if there's something similar.
-Catholic Charities (refugee program)

Plus consider volunteering at holiday and non-holiday events.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for replying...very good ideas and I now have some good leads to follow.

Just a point to clarify: I know the internet is a basic staple in everyone's diet these days. I should have elaborated in my original post. When I said they were "surfing the net", I was specifically talking about those people that are more concerned with updating their facebook profiles than they are finding a job or source of income. I've seen quite a few of those say the least.
Thanks again to everyone on here...please keep the suggestions coming if you have any. Cheers to you all.
posted by Yunani at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2010

Late to the discussion, but Small Can Be Big seems to be exactly what you're looking for - families trying to keep the electricity on, or pay emergency medical bills, etc. Each family on the site is recommended specifically by an agency who has reviewed and verified the details, and generally the stories are quite moving and make it quite clear that a small amount can really make a huge difference in these families' lives.
posted by judith at 8:36 PM on November 28, 2010

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