Every year, I publish a Holiday Gift Guide. It's coming out on Thursday and features a ton of great gifts from small local businesses. Today, though, take a few minutes to consider donating your time, cash or skills to one of the organizations listed here. They're all Memphis non-profits that could benefit from your generosity this holiday season (and year round).
This list is by no means complete – there are hundreds of incredible organizations in this city that are worthy of your love. If there are any organizations you work with or support that aren't on the list, please leave them in the comments with some details on what they need so that everyone can see them.
As a side note, I'd like to give a quick shout out to everyone who has asked me where they can volunteer or donate this holiday season. It's proof that you guys (and Memphians in general) are the best kind of people.
What they do: The Child Advocacy Center provides services to some of Memphis' most vulnerable, the victims of child abuse, that help them recover from abuse and return to normal childhoods. They provide counseling, prevention services and advocates to children and families in need.
What they do: The Church Health Center provides medical, vision and dental care to Memphians who have jobs, but lack health insurance. They also run the Church Health Center Wellness, a pay-what-you-can fitness and community center.
How you can help: Volunteer to help out at the clinic or Hope and Healing center (or be an on-call volunteer for whatever's needed most). You can also make monetary donations or donate items from the CHC's wishlist.
What they do: The DeNeuville Center's mission is to educate women of all backgrounds, both in school subjects (like English, art, reading math and GED classes) and practical skills (like budgeting and parenting).
How you can help: The center can always benefit from monetary donations, but they're also in need of volunteers to babysit, tutor the center's clients in ESL, GED prep and preparing for the U.S. Citizenship test. They also need people to help maintain the building and answer the phones.
What they do: The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is the only shelter in Memphis that allows families to stay together. They provide food, shelter and clothing to homeless families, then works to get them back on their feet, even after they've returned to permanent housing.
What they do: Imagine finally landing a big job interview, but not being able to afford an outfit that will allow you to dress to impress. Dress for Success provides professional clothing, job mentoring and career services to women in need.
How you can help: Donate a new or gently used (clean) suit or business casual clothing or shoes to their closet.
What they do: The Halal food pantry at Masjid Al-Mu'minun is the first food pantry in Memphis to provide strictly Halal food to Memphians in need.
How you can help: Contact email@example.com for details on helping out.
What they do: The Hope House works with families impacted by HIV/AIDS. They're the only organization in Tennessee that provides preschool and family-centerd care to severely impovershed families affected by HIV/AIDS.
What they do: The Humane Society provides shelter, medical care and adoptions to injured and abused dogs and cats.
How you can help: Adopt one of the Society's adorable dogs or cats (some of them, who have been there the longest, have free adoption) or volunteer to walk dogs, keep kennels clean, or foster an animal.
What they do: LMS estimates that there are more than 120,000 Memphians who can't read well enough to apply for a job. They work to improve the literacy rate in Memphis by providing literacy classes to all ages and skill levels, professional development help and one-on-one tutoring.
What they do: MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) works directly with some of Memphis' most vulnerable senior citizens and families. They provide Meals on Wheels, companionship and handyman services to seniors, provide emergency housing to families in crisis, help find homeless families permanent homes and provide mentoring and college prep help to teens.
How you can help: You can donate cash to MIFA or volunteer as a college mentor, Meals on Wheels deliver-er, senior ombudsman or be a senior companion. You can also help make gift bags, tend their community garden or advocate for the rights of people in nursing homes. Here's a complete list of volunteer opportunities at MIFA.
What they do: The MGLCC provides a safe, welcoming space for Memphis' gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered community. They provide free HIV testing, support groups, counseling referral, and support to LBTQ youth in need of support and care.
What they do: Meritan serves all kinds of people. They provide foster care for kids, services for the visually imparired, medical care, professional development programs and in-home care and support for senior citizens and low-income Memphians with medical or developmental needs.
How you can help: You can donate to Meritan in general, or to one of their specific programs. They list volunteer opportunities regularly on Facebook, or sign up to be a Homemaker and run small errands and perform litlle household tasks for people in need. You can also provide gifts to senior citizen for Christmas through Meritan's Silver Bells program.
What they do: The Food Bank fights hunger in the Memphis area by providing food, basic necessities and education to those in need.
How you can help: The demand for the Food Bank's services is partiuclarly high right now, and they're desperate for donations of cash and non-perishable food items. Why not organize a food drive (or contribute to one), donate to Feed the Need the next time you're at the grocery store or volunteer to work in the warehouse, stock the store or serve meals at the Food Bank. If you feel like you won't make a difference, know that just one dollar can provide two meals to someone in need.
What they do: Porter-Leath works primarily with children and families. They provide Head Start preschool, parenting classes, foster grandparents, foster care and a shelter for runaway youth.
What they do: The Ronald McDonald House provides a comfortable home away from home to non-local St. Jude patients and their families while they're receiving care at the hospital, free of charge.
What they do: SRVS provides job training, jobs, eductaion, clinics, housing, and a supportive community for Memphians with developmental disabilities. They also provide support to the families of the people they serve.
How you can help: If you're a warm, friendly person who likes to smile a lot (because you will smile a lot), volunteer to work with SRVS. They've got all kinds of hands-on opportunities, most of which come with the instant gratification of knowing that you've made someone's day better.
What they do: The St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen is open seven days a week, 365 days a year to provide a warm meal and gathering space for Memphis' homeless and hungry. On a normal day, the mission serves 150 – 225 people.
What they do: At 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms is one of the largest public parks in the United States with trails, a Greenline, horseback riding, lakes, playgrounds, disc golf courses and a home for a herd of buffalo.
How you can help: Shelby Farms can always use monetary donations, but the most fun way to do it is through the Adopt a Buffalo program. You can also volunteer for one-time and long-term service projects in the park.
What they do: What doesn't Youth Villages do? They provide kids and teens in Memphis with crisis services, foster care and adoption, housing, mentoring, transitional living and in-home services.
How you can help: Youth Villages Memphis still needs more than 100 Holiday Heroes to fulfill holiday wish lists for their young clients. You can also volunteer in a number of positions or make financial contributions.
Like I said, these are only a few of the local organizations that are worthy of your time and contributions this holiday season. If you know of or are involved in others, please leave them in the comments so that everyone can see them. Be sure to mention what the organization does and how people can best help them.