Tis’ the Season for Helping Others
By Stefanie Michaels
People often ask me where to donate their time, monies, and support for organizations during the holidays.
Whatever organization to donate to are always a personal choice. An illness, a personal cause, or something that strikes one’s heart, are all factors to deciding how and where to give back.
Giving back doesn’t have to be financial. There are many charities that go shorthanded and rely on volunteers to help out, especially for the holiday season.
Also, often times, for holidays, events and birthdays, I’ll make a donation in a person’s name to a certain charity for their gift. Or, if someone has passed away, instead of sending flowers, I’ll donate to an organization in their honor, such as the American Heart Association.
Here are a few charities I like to work with and donate to and why.
When I was going through chemo, people would ask me how I dealt with it and was I scared. Of course, I was scared, but I am an adult and handled it. How I would answer, was “Give all of this to me, so a child wouldn’t have to be sitting in this chair. I can take it, I don’t want them to.” And, sincerely, I meant every word of it.
Each year I donate to this organization because it absolutely breaks my heart to see and know children are suffering and sick. This organization is on the forefront of many lifesaving trials, innovations and is specific to helping children.
In the same chord, since my personal bout with breast cancer and dealing with sitting in the chair getting chemo on Christmas morning 4 years ago, I wanted to share about this amazing organization started by two human angels from the beauty business.
Started in Los Angeles at Cedar Sinai Hospital, Lipstick Angels are a group of gals, who come and sit with you during “chair time” and make you feel just a little more human and less sick. They sit and talk with you and help the time go by. They give hand massages, talk to you about how to pencil on eyebrows, and leave a little bag of beauty goodies before they leave.
IDA Africa is a non-profit great ape protection organization in Cameroon, Africa. Their chimpanzee sanctuary protects chimpanzees orphaned by illegal bushmeat trade.
Their work is powerful and educational. They have over 40 acres of enclosure to ensure the safety of their chimps, and help emotionally damaged ones find friendship in adoptive social groups. They also teach conservation and support law enforcement with habitat protection.
You can adopt a Chimpanzee in their donation program, and adopters get updates and photos of their chimp for one year.
Being a California girl all of my life, and having the ocean as a huge part of my memories, there was no question that Surfrider Foundation would be an organization I would donate to annually.
Champions of Surf & Sand. Surfrider is a community of everyday people who passionately protect the coastal playground—the ocean, waves, and beaches through working with local government to adopt new environmental laws to clean up days, where members and friends get out there, unite and clean beaches.
Based in Kanab, Utah, but also nationwide, BFAS’s mission is to end the killing of homeless pets, and has the largest no kill sanctuary. It’s also an animal rescue and advocacy organization with spay/neuter programs and pet adoption locations, such as NKLA.
I was honored to work with them first hand in Houston after the floods. So, they not only work on a daily basis saving animals, they are also first responders on the ground in a crisis situation.
I came across this small rescue group out of Bulgaria from a Twitter friend. The organization, who has been helping the street dogs there needed donations quickly to help an on slot of abused dogs coming in to their shelter.
In August 2007, the Rowles family—Diane and Tony Rowles and their 4 children, 4 dogs and 2 cats decided to make the move to Bulgaria to have a more peaceful life from the busy lifestyle in the UK. The Rowles bought a family property in the outskirts of Rudozem and saw the plight of the street dogs and started feeding and caring for them.
Bulgaria has many street dogs who are often subjected to the most horrendous cruelty. They are kicked, beaten and shot on a regular basis for no other reason than that it provides certain jerks with amusement. Many of these dogs are injured, in pain, or starving and in the winter, when there is a high chance that they will freeze to death.
Having 6 of my own rescues, it’s a no brainer as to why I want to help this family.
Because I am a science nerd, and there wasn’t really anything like this for me growing up, I am supporting our nation’s girls who love science and math in their education.
The National Girls Collaborative Project operates on a local basis. Each Collaborative has a defined region, acting as a hub for local programs to coordinate resources and reach girl-serving STEM programs in the community.
It also offers a directory of girl-serving STEM programs and allows those programs to broadcast their activity with events and news as an added resource.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) is a national organization involving rescue, adoption and welfare Over the last 150+ years their efforts have saved animals from dog-fighting, puppy mills, hoarding and other cruelty-related situations.
They help thousands of animals with life-saving medical care and behavioral rehabilitation, then adoption, and are there when disaster strikes.
I support their efforts because, they also work with all levels of government to fight for stronger laws to protect animals.
I choose this international organization for their vast work on many projects needed around the globe.
They’ve evolved from just saving species and landscapes to addressing the larger global threats and forces that impact them. Innovating strategies puts their mission around six key areas: forests, marine, freshwater, wildlife, food and climate. For example, they work with communities in educating them on the threats to nature, and help ensure nature’s ability to provide back to communities.
A great gift option! You can adopt a “symbolic species”, such as a stuffed elephant to help support WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.
I love this organization for so many reasons, but mainly for the reason that one idea from one person can change the lives of many.
The Jacaranda School for Orphans, located outside of Limbe, Malawi, was founded by Marie Da Silva. In 2002, while working as a nanny in the U.S., Marie learned that the school in her hometown was going to close. Knowing personally the effects of HIV/AIDS on families and children, she urged her mother to let the students gather and learn in their family home using Marie’s financial support from abroad.
She wanted to provide the most vulnerable children, children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, with a quality education and all the supportive services they need to thrive.
My dear friend and exceptional human, Mark Horvath and I met on Twitter in the nascent days of social media. His story was compelling— a successful hard-working man with a family, fell on hard times, lost everything and became homeless. He got his hands on a video camera, and began telling stories of the homeless people he came across, trying to dispel preconceived notions that all homeless are drug addicts and dangerous. Some, are just like you and me, who got a bad hand in life and wound up homeless. I have been homeless, and it sucks!
His efforts have placed him front and center speaking at TEDx, universities such as UCLA, and at Austin’s SXSW. He has been featured Forbes, Huffington Post, NPR, and more. He’s also partnered with Fortune 500 companies to sponsor people living on the streets with necessities, such as personal hygiene products and socks.
Meals on Wheels programs ensure that millions of terminally ill and homebound seniors are cared for in communities throughout the US. Not only do they provide meals, but are creating friendships between deliverer and seniors— 2 million volunteers are making a difference in the lives of seniors across the country by dropping off meals and spending time with them.
Their #savelunch initiative has gained recognition and support and to share awareness to government entities, such as Congress—what if Meals on Wheels wasn’t around?
I come from a line of service men and women in my family. Starting with my Grandfather in Italy, my Dad, uncles and cousins—both male and female. People who choose to serve for our country, are standup people in my book and I salute you.
Whatever position one takes politically, this isn’t something to politicize. This is about supporting our men and women overseas no matter what intentions. As you can imagine, it sucks being somewhere else without your loved ones, and this group of volunteers helps put together care packages for those deployed overseas.
It’s been an honor to volunteer my time over the past two years with Casa of LA for a special event they put on for kids in the foster care system. It’s called Glamour Gowns & Suit Up!
I got to know this stellar organization through this event and have since supported them.
In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act established three national goals for children in foster care: safety, permanency, and well-being, with safety being of paramount concern for all child welfare services. Casa-kids have been removed from their homes (at least temporarily) for reasons of safety. Some of these children have been removed from one unsafe situation and placed in another situation that is unsafe or inappropriate. CASA steps in and offers support of these kids to ensure they are safe.
Stefanie Michaels, aka ‘Adventure Girl’, spends more than 180 days a year on the road seeking out great spots for adventures, dining, shopping, hotels and more. Dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” by Vanity Fair Magazine for being one of Twitter’s first icon’s to reach over 1 million followers, her fans continue to grow across all of her digital media platforms. Follow her @adventuregirl as she shares photos, updates and more.