THE MANY FACES OF HOMELESSNESS: HOW YOU CAN HELP

blog_title_image_homelessnessKnowing how to help a homeless person can sometimes feel difficult, confusing and overwhelming. The dollar you give might be used to buy drugs or alcohol. Even offering food can be a problem – imagine handing an apple to a homeless man and then discovering he has no teeth. Just as there are many reasons people become homeless, there are also many ways to help. Understanding the leading causes of homelessness is often the best way to learn what the homeless need and how you can make a positive difference in their lives. The chronically homeless, who often struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues, need a safe and stable living environment where they can get counseling and health care. To help them, consider volunteering at a local shelter or halfway house that provides longer-term housing. Donating clean towels, pillows and blankets can also help create a comfortable and safe living environment. The majority of homeless youth bw_homeless_teens_21461332have been kicked out of their homes or abandoned by parents or guardians. Others who left on their own accord have suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their families. For many, trusting another adult or authority figure can be difficult. One of the best ways to help is to simply ask them what they need. Maybe it’s a hot meal, a warm coat or a clean pair of socks; or maybe it’s information on how to get into foster care, enroll in a drug and alcohol detox program or register for the GED. Taking the time to listen to their needs, and to follow through, can go a long way in helping them regain their trust in others and get off the streets. imm needs housing homelessFor many veterans, physical disability, mental anguish and post-traumatic stress can make readjusting to civilian life very difficult. This can lead to drug and alcohol addiction, the inability to hold down a steady job and homelessness. Because many veterans have very specific needs to help them get back on their feet—job placement services, medical services, housing assistance, counseling—there are numerous ways to get involved. Consider donating your time or money to organizations which help homeless vets:

While we need to address the problem of homelessness as a whole, the more we can understand each person’s individual circumstances, the more we can help. Before making assumptions or judgments, take the time to ask some questions and do a little research. It can make all the difference. The Face(s) of Homelessness

  • Number of homeless in the United States: 610,042
  • Number of chronic homeless: 109,132 (18%)
  • Number of homeless youth under 18: 380,000
  • Number of homeless veterans: 57,849 (9%)

For more charities helping the homeless with shelter, counseling services and job training.

-Amelia Glynn, Marketing Contractor

Hunger and Food Justice: Community Building for Food Equality

Hunger: it’s a daunting problem the world over. Even though I was eager to research and write on this topic, when I started to dig into it, I got more and more overwhelmed with how broad and profound the issue … Continue reading

One Million Donations and Counting!

blog_title_image_millionWe reached a major milestone in the history of JustGive last week when we processed the one-millionth donation on our website.

Who was behind this auspicious donation? His name is Al Danish, and he hails from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

Al made his donation to PathWays PA, a nonprofit dedicated to helping to keep low-income, vulnerable women together with their children by offering programs and services that help families stabilize their lives.

“If my donation can help in a small way, then that makes me feel good,” Al said about helping PathWays.

Al said his role as a grandfather of two makes PathWays’ mission even more relevant to him. “I liked the idea of making a donation for something specific like a case of diapers for a baby,” Al said.

Pathways PA is also a JustGive nonprofit affiliate. Since 2008, they’ve used our nonprofit services to accept donations through their website.

With just a few clicks, PathWays created a customized donation page, allowing their donors to select from a list of suggested gifts like $25 to “provide basic toiletries to a mom in need,” or to enter in any desired donation amount.

“JustGive is a wonderful avenue for our online donors to give in a quick and easy way,” said Fran Franchi, Director of Development for PathWays. “We are so grateful for supporters like Al Danish. Thank you, Al for your continued support of PathWays PA’s mission and congratulations on being the one-millionth donor.”

Al was gracious about his 15 minutes of online donor fame when we first shared the news, saying, “You made me feel very good about helping out with a donation.”

JustGive was one of the first nonprofit organizations to channel the power of the Internet for online giving. Since 2000, we have sent more than $400 million to over 70,000 charities working throughout the world—and every day, we are inspired by donors like Al Danish to create new ways for people to find, learn about, and support virtually any charity, anytime.

Thank you to Al and PathWays PA for helping us reach this important milestone!

 

—Sarah Bacon, Director of Product

Talk early, talk often: Teach your children to avoid sexual assault

As a woman, it’s hard to grow up without exposure to sexual violence of some kind. While I was lucky to get out of my early childhood unscathed, I experienced sexual harassment from several peers beginning in middle school, and was involved in a verbally abusive relationship in high school, which led to choosing a verbally abusive marriage.

Even as I was making poor decisions in partners, my inner voice wondered, “Why am I doing this?” Pushing aside our inner voice is, I believe, one of the key reasons why I and so many other women find ourselves in the less-than-ideal situations that lead to sexual assault.

Sexual Assault is an umbrella term, which includes child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact (touching or grabbing), unwelcome exposure of another’s body (exhibitionism), domestic violence, and rape. This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The ultimate goal: raise our children with the core values that help them avoid sexual assault.

Encourage healthy sexuality at a young age

An awareness of what is wrong starts with an understanding about what’s right. And this, parents, is up to you. Sexuality needs to be discussed many, many times: think of it more as a series of moments where you can educate your kids, not one Big Talk. If you’re wondering how to educate your kids about sexuality, check out this great healthy sexuality PDF from National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

It’s important to keep these conversations age appropriate, addressing different topics at each age. NSVRC offers another helpful PDF with an excellent chart to help parents understand what’s “normal” for sexual development at various ages, and which conversations to have.

A few months ago, we talked about how to protect our children from sexual abuse. You may want to revisit that post for tips about prevention.

Talking to your kids about sexuality is only part of the issue, though. My father was an OB/GYN and my mother a nurse, so I grew up knowing “the birds and the bees.” Yet, I still didn’t make good decisions.

Teach your children that they own their own bodies

At my daughter’s second birthday party, a friend tried to force her daughter to hug mine. My little girl is very shy, didn’t know this girl very well, and didn’t want to. My response? “You don’t have to hug anyone you don’t want to.” It is very important to me that my daughter knows that she owns her body and makes all decisions concerning it. This means she doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone she doesn’t want to, even if I’m worried the other person might be offended.

While well-intentioned parents have a tendency to force their kids to hug or kiss their friends or grandparents, this practice can send an unintended, detrimental message to kids: Push aside your own feelings to make someone else happy. This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’

If your children are huggers, teach them to ask others for permission to hug (“May I hug you?”). If you would like for them to hug Grandma, you can say: “I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it.” Teach them to respond with a hug, or a “no, thank you.” And mean what you say—don’t let any child feel disappointment or resentment from you. Explain your reasoning to family members, and remind them it’s not personal. Every child goes through stages where they don’t want to offer affection.

This is hardest for me as a parent, actually—I constantly want to kiss my daughter’s adorable little face, and at two, she often responds with a firm, “NO MOMMY!” Not wanting to squelch her currently strong inner voice, I usually respond with, “that’s okay, honey, it’s your body.”

Read more on this topic at CNN: I Don’t Own My Child’s Body

Understand and talk to your kids about teen relationship violence

After years of bullying during middle school, I was desperate for acceptance. When my family and I moved to another state during my junior year in high school, I became involved with a verbally abusive boyfriend. Though the relationship lasted only four months, the damage lasted much longer—and led me to a verbally abusive marriage. While it is embarrassing for me to admit I didn’t value myself, I know that I’m not alone. By talking about it, I hope to help more young girls understand the long-term repercussions of their choices.

Talking with your children about healthy relationships is extremely important—second only to modeling good relationships. If you are not in a healthy relationship, your children are more likely to choose unhealthy relationships for themselves.

So how do you teach your kids about healthy relationships? Point out loving interactions, examples of good communication, and healthy boundaries when you see them, both in the media and in life. And point out examples of unhealthy interactions when you see them, as well.

Sit down and talk to your kids, long before they start dating. Not sure what to say? Love is Respect’s guide to Healthy Relationships is a good place to start the conversation.

If you suspect that your child is already in an unhealthy relationship, check out Love is Respect’s “Help Your Child.” This can be a very tricky situation to navigate, so if you need help, definitely get it — from a hotline, a counselor, or a domestic violence counselor.

Domestic violence and teen relationship violence can be difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it yourself. I encourage you to look at the warning signs of abuse, and the Power and Control Wheel.

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Concerned and involved parents are key: what we teach our children truly can prevent sexual assaults. In addition, the wonderful charities mentioned in this post provide a wealth of information. Please donate now to help spread the word, fund research, and provide resources to parents, kids, and affected adults.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center is the voice behind Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and offers a wealth of information for preventing sexual violence. Brought to you by Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
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KidPower teaches positive, practical personal safety skills to protect people of all ages and abilities from bullying, molestation, abduction, and other violence.
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Love is Respect is a great resource to for engaging, educating and empowering young adults about how to prevent and end abusive relationships. Brought to you by Break the Cycle.
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—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Youth Violence: School Shootings and Beyond

Nearly fourteen years ago, I was sitting in my senior classroom when the principle came over the loudspeaker and told every teacher to turn on the TV. A mass shooting was in progress at a high school in Colorado. My classmates and I watched the news coverage in horror, most of us in tears.

This was the Columbine High School Massacre, which remains the deadliest shooting on a high school campus in United States history.

The shootings were terrifying, in part because they weren’t entirely surprising. You may remember Kip Kinkel, the student in Oregon who killed his parents and then shot his classmates. That happened the year before, in Springfield, an hour from my school.

When we think about teen violence, these horrific school shootings (especially the most recent one at Sandy Hook Elementary) are what come to mind. But youth violence is about more than school shootings. When you include fights, gang violence and suicide under the umbrella term of “youth violence,” the statistics are frightening. Believe it or not, violence is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Statistics like these leave us asking questions: “Why is this happening?” and “How can we stop it?” These are hard questions. And there’s no greater reflex than the instinct to protect our children—which makes us feel desperate to find the answers right now.

How to Prevent Youth Violence

Because of the many factors that contribute to violent attitudes and behaviors, there is not one approach or one group that can effectively stop the violence. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are a few proven strategies that help:

  • Get involved in parent- and family-based programs. In these programs, parents receive training on child development and learn skills for talking with their kids about solving problems in nonviolent ways. (Find free educational courses online at Veto Violence, or search online for “parenting courses” in your community.)
  • Teaching non-violent communication. Teach children how to handle tough social situations, and how to resolve problems without using violence.
  • Take advantages of mentoring programs. Mentoring programs pair a young person with an adult who serves as a positive role model and helps guide behavior.
  • Support environmental changes. Changes to the physical and social environment can address some base causes of violence. Youth violence is a particular concern for low-income, minority communities, where poverty, family instability, and unemployment provide a fertile context for gangs and illicit drug markets. Addressing these issues is key.

Programs That Help Young People

There are many great nonprofit organizations working on a grassroots level to help educate parents, teachers and kids about youth violence. Check out these six charities, each of which take a different approach:

National Campaign to Stop Youth Violence helps individual students make a lasting commitment to take responsibility for ending violence in their lives, homes and communities.
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Afterschool Alliance provides afterschool programs for children across the country. Afterschool programs are critical for kids who have working parents, helping keep them out of trouble and learn important skills.
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STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere), a program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has a threefold mission: 1) increase awareness about youth violence, 2) promote prevention approaches based on the best available evidence, and 3) provide guidance to communities on how to prevent youth violence.
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Big Brothers, Big Sisters improves children’s lives by pairing kids aged 6 to 18 (“Littles”) with adult mentors (“Bigs”). The results? Higher aspirations, greater confidence, better relationships, avoidance of risky behaviors, and educational success.
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Second Growth counsels adolescents and young adults on drug, alcohol, and recovery issues, and violence prevention. They provide Student Assistance Programs to middle and high schools, and train others to replicate their programs.
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Alternatives to Violence USA is an association of community- and prison- based groups offering workshops in personal growth and creative conflict management. They empower people to lead nonviolent lives through affirmation, respect for all, community building, cooperation, and trust.
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The best news is that Youth Violence is now top-of-mind, and we’re having real, constructive conversations to solve the underlying issues.

Let’s hope that Sandy Hook is the last of these tragic massacres. Donate now and get involved to help stop youth violence.

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

This local tragedy stirs deep emotion

I’ve been having great difficulty dealing with the horror that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My kids are often in Sandy Hook for sports and other activities, and I have spent many weekends on the sidelines of the soccer fields directly behind the school.

Holiday AngelNewtown is almost identical to my town of Weston, Connecticut, so it is very hard for me to let go of the horror by rationalizing to myself that it is far away or such a different type of community than my own. This trauma is deeper for all of us because the reality is that this could have happened anywhere and to any of us. That is what is most profoundly frightening about this event.

I have a 7 year old who is always curious, and he came home from school on Friday asking a lot of questions. After asking all the main questions, he paused and asked, “How did the kids know what to do when their teacher died?” He was obviously putting himself directly into that situation. I am very sad he has to think about these things at such an early age. As he was going to bed that night he asked, “Does God make these bad people?” I had to explain that everyday, we all wake up and have to make many decisions that can make us “good” or “bad” for that moment.

Every night now when I put him to bed, I first get a chill of realization that he could have been in that 1st grade classroom, and then I give a grateful hug that he is still here to tuck in.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the depth of tragedy and anguish that will always be a part of the Newtown community. Life is so precious—and at the same time, it can be unfair and unpredictable.

While our hearts are broken for the victims and all of those affected by this senseless tragedy,  the healing process must begin. There are many nonprofits that are currently supporting the town with: cleaning up the old school, setting up the new school, providing health services to residents in the community, supporting the firefighters, supplying aid for the memorial services, and offering ongoing activities to help the kids heal. To find out more and how to help Newtown, here’s an article that gives several ways you can be supportive.

A few charities providing the community with services that you can donate to:

kindnessMy personal belief is that we all must put a little bit of goodness back into the world and do what we can to overcome the horror by being kind to those around us. In addition to helping Newtown directly, random acts of kindness should be part of our daily routine to spread goodness. More than something we do in response to Ann Curry’s tweet…something we make part of our everyday life.

—Kendall Webb, Executive Director

Encouraging your child to read

Encouraging your child to read

Source: Sara Olsher

Every night after my daughter and I climb into bed, she picks three books for me to read to her. In the morning, the first thing she does after she opens her eyes is reach for a book to “read” out loud.

Children have a natural curiosity for reading that amazes me. My daughter has gone from literally eating her books at 6 months old to reciting them from memory at 2 years old. She has a veritable library full of board books to choose from, and at the end of most days, they’re scattered all over the living room.

How does the average parent encourage literacy?

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing when it comes to teaching my daughter (Charlie) to read. We sing the ABC song and we read aloud every day—but is that enough?

The nonprofit Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is an amazing resource for learning more about literacy and teaching your child to read. As it turns out, a big part of early reading is simply learning the joy of storytelling—which means I’m doing all right so far. In addition to reading books, you might try singing, finger plays (like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot”), and nursery rhymes, which are great ways to get small children excited. Toddlers who love for someone to read to them often begin “pre-reading,” which is what Charlie is doing when she tries to recite her books from memory. This is the first step toward literacy.

Reading books out loud helps children understand that letters have meaning, and you can emphasize this by teaching them the ABC song, making letters out of pipe cleaners, letting them play with flash cards, or shaping letters out of play doh. You don’t need to drill your two year-old with flash cards, though—simply making the commitment to read to them every day is the most important thing you can do.

Toddler enjoying books

Source: Sara Olsher

For older children, the goal is to learn to read fluently, not to read every word. This means resisting the urge to jump in every time they skip a word or miss a sound. If your child understands what he or she is reading—that is, the meaning behind the story—they’re on the path to a lifetime of reading. Not sure? Ask detailed questions about the book to encourage comprehension.

Ultimately, children learn by example, so pick up a book and read with your little one. If you enjoy reading, it’s likely your child will want to try it, too.

For fun resources, check out RIF’s Learning to Read section (which is also available in Spanish).  I am madly in love with their “finger plays” page, which teaches all the hand gestures to popular rhymes like Pat-a-Cake.

What about kids who don’t have these resources?

RIF, sharing books with children

Source: RIF

Unfortunately, not every child has a parent with the ability to encourage reading. Did you know that two-thirds of America’s children living in poverty have NO books at home?By the fourth grade, an astonishing forty percent of children do not achieve basic levels of reading proficiency. According to RIF, African American and Hispanic students are, on average, nearly three academic years behind their White peers at this age.

It’s clear that having access to books at home is key for helping children learn to read: fourth graders who reported having 25+ books at home had higher scores on reading tests than children who didn’t have that many books (NCES, 2003).

Organizations like RIF are working to encourage literacy for all children. In addition to the awesome resources I listed above, they have a variety of programs aimed at helping children who don’t have easy access to books. One of their programs is called Books for Ownership, which distributes 15 million new, free books to 4 million children in all US states and territories. Two other programs, Care to Read and Family of Readers, empower childcare staff and parents with the resources they need to encourage reading.

Motivated to help? I am super inspired by Reading is Fundamental (their bumper sticker is now on my car), and I encourage you to support this amazing organization with your donation:

For just $10, you can provide 4 books for children in need.

Donate

For 20 more charities providing valuable educational and reading resources, check out the JustGive Guide. And you could be the difference in a child’s life!

Thank you very much to Margaret Carter and Samantha Louk from Reading is Fundamental for the images and statistics about this important topic.

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Fit for their future: making sense of childhood obesity

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I have a picky toddler at home, and meal time is great fun. Anything she doesn’t like (which is most everything) ends up on floor, and I don’t have a dog—which means I’m on my hands and knees every night, picking up bits of carrot and chicken and attempting to de-stickify my floor.

I can see how easy it would be simply to give up and give her what she’ll eat. And with convenience foods artificially engineered to taste fabulous, I’m sure she would love high fructose corn syrup-laden fruit snacks or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts conveniently already cut off.

Physical fitness is another challenge – when she wants to go outside while I’m trying to organize a healthy grocery list or attempting to cook her some broccoli, it would be easier to sit her in front of an Elmo DVD.

But that wouldn’t be a good choice.

In this day and age, it’s not easy to keep our kids eating healthfully and staying active. Our society is set up so that physical fitness no longer happens naturally. With the exception of people who live in a dense urban environment, we have to drive everywhere. And with most of us working desk jobs and living our lives at a frenzied pace, it’s hard to keep ourselves eating healthy and getting exercise—let alone making sure our kids do too.

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In our country (and, as it turns out, most developed countries) unhealthy lifestyles are the norm. The most terrifying part of our lifestyle is what it is doing to our children; they are starting out their lives with precursors to horrible diseases that were, until recently, only a problem for older adults. Type 2 diabetes, which was once virtually unheard of in adolescence, now accounts for as many as half of all new diabetes diagnoses in some populations.

A recent study suggests that the tide may be turning on childhood obesity, at least in one area of our country…unfortunately, this improvement is only for children with private insurance (that is, children from higher income families). Why?

Experts theorize that the families of lower-income children are less able to provide healthful meals, and that they may not have access to the same physical activities that their wealthier counterparts do. With soccer classes for a second grader priced nearly $200 for a 3 month session (plus the cost of a uniform and gear) in the Bay Area, that’s not hard to believe.

As Jeffrey Martin, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at WayneStateUniversity’s Collegeof Education, succinctly put it, “underserved children, such as minority children living in low-income households, do not engage in enough physical activity either in or out of school and often lack fitness compared to Caucasian children.” To find out why, Martin tested social and physical environmental factors. “Examining the school environment is a particularly important consideration in underserved communities, because often children have limited equipment, and their play areas are unsafe or in poor condition,” Martin said.

How you can help end childhood obesity

If we are to end childhood obesity, we must focus on helping children of all socio-economic backgrounds. Donating to organizations that promote safe play is a great way to start. Check out these three great organizations:

Playworks is a national nonprofit organization that supports learning by providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day. They also provides full training and technical assistance to schools, districts and organizations that wish to include healthy play as part of a positive learning environment.
Donate

InfinityNow is a Washington, DC based nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to wellness. This means getting healthy isn’t just about exercise or eating right—it’s about the way you look at life. They target disadvantaged elementary school students in the DC area to teach healthy behaviors and develop life skills.
Donate

World Fit seeks to curtail the epidemic of childhood obesity and create a “culture of fitness” with kids’ fitness programs and obesity programs for middle school students. Olympians and Paralympians “adopt” schools to mentor and teach the importance of lifelong fitness and the Olympic values of perseverance, respect, and fair play.
Donate

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– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Summer of Fun, Sun, & Giving Back!

School is almost out, kids can’t wait to enjoy their summer vacation, and it’s time for parents to figure out how to keep them entertained! It is great to encourage our children to be outdoors and active all year ‘round, but during the summer months especially when the sun is shining and the days are long. There are many organizations to choose from that help us find ways to do just that and offer a variety of interactive classes, camps, and full summer programs.

As a kid I went to camps through my local YMCA, an organization that strives to strengthen local communities. The Y works side-by-side with neighbors to give everyone the opportunity regardless of age, income or background, to learn, grow and thrive. I remember singing Y-camp songs on the bus up to the lake for swimming and hiking in our local national park. There were also barbeques with plenty of hot dogs – very exciting for a 10 year old!  Most YMCA locations still offer both summer and year-round programs for campers of all ages including a variety of activities from games, sports and art, to science experiments and cooking. This year I enrolled my 3 year old in swimming lessons. She looks forward to seeing her teacher every day and jumping in the pool with her green floaties.

JustGive’s Founder and Executive Director, Kendall Webb, participates in the Fresh Air Fund programs each summer with her family:

“For the past 2 summers, we have had the opportunity to host an amazing girl named Kayla, now 10, through the Fresh Air Fund. Fresh Air’s programs give New York City children a chance to live outside their low-income communities and experience many special new activities, sports and opportunities they might not otherwise enjoy. The program lets children get to know themselves through personal challenges of culture, food, and communication—and gain personal confidence, providing life-long growth for both the child and host family. Kayla has brought the gift of open-mindedness, patience and humor to me. I have given the experience of bike riding, swimming, blueberry picking and walking on grass barefoot to her. Kayla came to us a visitor but is now an integral part of our family. We are so excited to have her spend time with us again this summer for the third year. I hope more families will consider hosting through the Fresh Air Fund….there is a lot to learn as a host family. We opened up our home, but Kayla has opened up our hearts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are several other great organizations with summer programs to check out for yourself. Many offer life-changing opportunities to children throughout the year:

  • Girls Inc is a nonprofit organization that inspires and empowers all girls to be strong, smart, and bold and to reach their full potential while asserting their rights.  Girl Power!
  • Soccer Without Borders runs community-led, year-round youth development programs in under-served areas. Soccer provides these youth with an avenue for positive interaction, personal growth, and a brighter future.
  • Drawbridge is an expressive arts program for homeless and formerly homeless youth that provides a supportive community and a place to foster creativity.
  • Camp Good Days is dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families who have been touched by cancer through summer camping experiences.

Support these innovative youth organizations by starting a recurring monthly donation today!

What are your best tips and summer activities? Take a few minutes to jot a note on Facebook—share what works for you while making life just a little easier for someone else. You can help them enjoy the summer even more!

JustGive
Marketing Team