Forget about all of those lakes—it’s true, Minnesota’s also home to 10,000 nonprofits! This Christmas, instead of hoping for a new set of wheels or piece of funky furniture, I thought I’d create a wish list of organizations that are worthy of financial support, if one was so inclined. (Boring but necessary disclosure: I’m personally involved with many of the nonprofits listed here, although what better way is there to know about the good work someone’s doing?)
Here are my top five choices:
Call for Justice, LLC (callforjustice.org )
First, consider Call for Justice, LLC, a small nonprofit that I head. (Yes, that’s right, I’m selfishly plugging the place that gives me a regular paycheck.) We do incredible work behind the scenes helping people who earn low incomes connect with lawyers to protect key needs like housing or safety from abusers. We’re also a major hub for legal resource information—for example, we train United Way 211 (Information & Referral) on how to make good legal referrals. Videotapes of those trainings (posted on the C4J website) have gone viral, meaning that people from across the world are getting help understanding the law and how to navigate legal systems. Consider a tax deductible donation, or if that’s too much to ask, please “Like” C4J on Facebook. (Or better yet, do both!)
Jeremiah Program (www.jeremiahprogram.org)
The Jeremiah Program helps women and children escape intergenerational poverty by providing housing, day care, and preschool services—sometimes for up to four years—while “Moms” attend college. Most importantly, Jeremiah’s life coaches help women, many of whom have histories of extreme poverty and/or abuse, think differently about themselves. In other words, it’s a program that empowers women to succeed while they bootstrap themselves upward. Almost all of the nearly 80 women that Jeremiah houses graduate from college; a fifth go on to earn graduate degrees. This is a phenomenal success rate! Consider a donation—and tell them Ellie sent you!
Minnesota Lavender Bar Association (www.mnlavbar.org/wordpress)
The MLBA, the only professional organization of GLBT attorneys in Minnesota, gives a unified voice to a group of people who otherwise might be lost in a profession that’s mostly comprised of straight people. Importantly, the MLBA recently launched a fellowship program to support GLBT attorneys who practice in greater Minnesota (read: outside of the freakin’ Twin Cities). A donation to help fund the “Greater Minnesota Fellowship” would assist the MLBA in continuing that outreach. (Note: I’m an MLBA board member.)
Minnesota Zen Meditation Center (www.mnzencenter.org)
The Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, which I attend, was founded in the 1970s just as Buddhism was being introduced to Minn-e-sot-a. There’s something cool happening at the MZMC too: for the last year and a half, boatloads of twenty- and thirty-somethings are showing up, looking for a better way to approach life and the world. MZMC will soon begin a big remodeling campaign (to better serve those new people), and I bet they’d welcome donations to their building fund. You can even attend MZMC functions to see your donation at work!
The Bridge for Youth (bridgeforyouth.org)
Ever consider what it means to be an at-risk youth? How about the added issues of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and coming out in a family that’s not very tolerant? The Bridge for Youth (again, I’m a board member) has several GLBT-oriented programs, including a youth support group named “So What If I Am?” Most recently, TBFY launched a support group for parents of GLBT youth; many parents have nowhere to turn for basic information related to their child coming out. What’s more, and on a personal note that’s very important to yours truly, TBFY maintains at least one bed space for transgender-identifying youth. Please put this place on your it’s-the-end-of-the-year-and-I-need-a-tax-deduction list!
There are plenty of other deserving nonprofits out there. If none of these float your boat, identify organizations that align with your passions (animals, the arts, nursing homes for worn out cowboy rodeo clowns) and support them with either a donation or your time.
Thank you, Dear Gentle Readers! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!