Three Ways You Can Donate to Charity Without Giving Money

Helping families in need

What’s the value of charitable donations in America today? According to figures from 2012, it’s over $300 billion — at least, that’s the total worth of contributions during that year. But if you’ve ever volunteered to cook meals at a soup kitchen, spent an afternoon visiting sick hospital patients or written letters to immobile pen pals around the world, you understand that charitable donations go much further than dollars and cents.

Sometimes, the most valuable donations are the donations of your time. Other times, it actually doesn’t require anything except a big bag full of ripped jeans and ratty Van Halen T-shirts. Seriously.

Whether you’re interested in helping families in need or helping disabled veterans, you can do both by donating your old clothes to a local charity organization that will then go on to sell the clothes (giving the profits to those in need) or recycle them. But why would you do that when you can just as easily find a secondhand shop that buys back designer trends or worse, dump them in the trash altogether?

American throw away 12.5 million pounds of old clothing every year.

Though it might be a bit crass to phrase it this way, when you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. For our conversation, the problem is growing pollution and overcrowding of landfills — especially as poverty in the U.S. continues to rise as well. The next time you open up your closet and find a sweater you haven’t worn since 2006, don’t just throw it in the dumpster behind your apartment. Find a charity organization and realize what the real value of charitable donations is.

Fifteen percent of all Americans currently live in poverty.

According to numbers from 2010, about 15% of all Americans were poor — the highest poverty rate since 1993. Even more striking was the fact that the rate had since been decreasing, including hitting a notable low of 11.3% in 2000. With all that in mind, it’s easy to turn a blind eye and chalk it up to great unknown entities like “the economy” or “the government,” though both things are partly to blame. But it’s not about blame; it’s about empathy. Donating canned goods and old pants requires next to nothing outside your regular routines.

Vet homelessness is currently at unprecedented levels.

The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that nearly 40% of all homeless men in the U.S. are veterans, though only 34% of the entire population is comprised of veterans. That’s a striking pair of figures, and the situation is made even worse when you realize that there are no easy solutions. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re aren’t any solutions. Dropping $1 in a styrofoam cup helps. Donating your old winter coats helps. So does buying a homeless person a meal at a local diner.

If you haven’t gotten it by now, realize the only thing you need to do to extend the value of charitable donations is keep your mind open. It’s not all about money, after all — it’s about finding out how to help, any way you possibly can.

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