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Often the urge to give to charity increases during wartime, even as we are coping with budgetary stresses and emotional anguish close to home. Donate your time or money to a relevant cause or charitable organization to spread the sacrifice and assuage the suffering. There's everything from pet fostering at home to hunger relief overseas to choose from. Here are some ideas.
The Red Cross serves military personnel and their families in all sorts of capacities, including emergency communications services anywhere in the world, emergency financial assistance (including burials and travel), counseling, and assistance to veterans. You can make donations online. To volunteer, contact your local Red Cross or visit the site to see how you can help.
The USO is about a lot more than Bob Hope entertaining the troops. The nonprofit charitable organization brings a "touch of home" by providing morale, welfare, and recreational services to uniformed military personnel, with 188 centers and five mobile canteens around the world. Donate online or by calling 800-876-7469.
Want to be part of a meaningful legacy? You can help educate the children of uniformed services personnel who die in active service. The MOAA scholarship fund provides interest-free loans and grants for college. Your contribution can be made in memory of someone and will be acknowledged in a letter to the recipient. Call 800-234-6622 or donate online.
Perhaps you've been to wedding receptions in their halls, but do you know about the many things the VFW does to support deployed servicemen? Here are several of their programs to which you can contribute.
Initiated by a local VFW post or auxiliary, Adopt-A-Unit sends care packages and news magazines and sponsors other projects that generate communication between the adopting post or auxiliary and the adopted military unit. Contact your local VFW or Ladies Auxiliary to see if they are currently sponsoring, or will initiate a sponsorship, of a military unit or ship. Ask if you can donate wish-list items for their adoptees.
You've got to love those phone cards. Operation Uplink has provided millions of them to keep military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones. The program is sustained solely by donations. Call 800-479-5228 or 816-756-3390 or donate online ($25 minimum).
Deployment can cause hardship -- financially and emotionally. The Military Assistance Program offers monetary and moral support to deploying service members and their families.
You can't put comfort in a care package, but you can support the Fisher House Foundation, which donates "comfort houses" on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers for service members and their families who must travel for specialized medical care. Think of it as a sort of Ronald McDonald House for our military families -- and imagine the comfort that more than 7,000 families receive annually by being able to be close to a loved one during hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.
The sad fact is that with every war, there are more injured and disabled veterans. The good news is you can volunteer with the Veterans Administration in community-based programs, hospital wards, nursing homes, veteran-outreach centers, foster care, and end-of-life programs.
The DAV Charitable Service Trust helps develop resources to meet the needs of America's disabled veterans and their families.
While Veterans for Peace is primarily an advocacy organization ("end the sanctions, stop the bombing"), it also acts. In conjunction with Life for Relief & Development, VFP has sent teams of veterans to Iraq to work alongside Iraqi laborers in repairing water-treatment plants. The group's Iraq Water Project has resulted in clean drinking water for more than 85,000 people.
Civilians aren't the enemy, but they're often the casualties of war. Though Iraq is not especially open to humanitarian and aid organizations, there are some working there and others ready to spring into action.
A private international humanitarian organization, CARE provides emergency relief and long-term recovery to victims of war all over the world. Since it established operations in Iraq after the Gulf War -- beginning with the distribution of 12,000 tons of food -- CARE has been the only international nongovernmental organization (NGO) to have maintained a continuous presence in the center and southern region of Iraq. In that time it has helped approximately one-third of the population of Iraq with relief like food storage and logistics, winter heating fuel, school and infant feeding projects, school repair projects, pediatric hospital feeding projects, and logistical support and other assistance to U.N. agencies. Call 800-521-CARE, ext. 999, or donate online.
You may have once known it as the International Relief Association. Still dedicated to alleviating human suffering, this U.N.-member NGO offers humanitarian, health, educational, social, and economic services to victims of natural disasters, wars, and hunger through a variety of programs. Life for Relief and Development is the only relief organization to have permission from both Iraq and the U.S. Treasury Department to do relief work in Iraq.
Through the Church World Service (CWS), the National Council of Churches -- a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among 50 million Christians in the U.S. -- provides disaster relief, human services and refugee assistance in more than 80 countries. Its All Our Children Campaign assists with ongoing humanitarian needs in Iraq, focusing on the critical health-care needs of Iraqi children. The National Council of Churches also supports the Middle East Council of Churches, the only Christian organization working in Iraq. Call 877-241-7414, or donate online.
Hunger is an ugly byproduct of war. Stop Hunger Now, a charitable, nonprofit international relief organization, is doing something about it by coordinating the distribution of food and other life-saving aid to crisis areas across the globe. Since 1998, it has provided more than $18 million in aid to people in more than 45 countries. Stop Hunger Now is already providing emergency food aid in Iraq in collaboration with the Islamic Relief Association (providing emergency food boxes within Iraq) and the Middle East Council of Churches (providing food stockpiles in Jordan at the most likely sites for refugee camps). Emergency food boxes can be prepared for only $20; each box feeds a family of four for four weeks. Call 888-502-8440, or donate online.
The nonprofit disaster-relief and humanitarian-aid organization responded to the Kurdish refugee crisis after the Gulf War with seven air shipments and three sea shipments of blankets, bandages, medicines, medical supplies, nutritional supplements, and personal-hygiene products. The Iranian Red Crescent Society facilitated distribution of the supplies, most of which were used at a disaster-relief camp and field hospital AmeriCares had set up in a town on the Iraqi-Iranian border. In general, AmeriCares provides immediate response to emergency medical needs and supports long-term health-care programs for people around the world without respect to race, creed or political persuasion. It is currently preparing for a projected refugee crisis in Turkey if war with Iraq occurs. Call 800-495-HELP, or donate online.
They are the future, and in matters of poverty and war, children really suffer. Save the Children provides the world's poorest families and communities with education, health care, and income opportunities. It has been on the humanitarian front lines of conflicts since it was founded 70 years ago. Its One World, One Wish Campaign addresses the needs of women and children in war zones around the world who need protection from violence, rape, exploitation, or forced military servitude. Save the Children is preparing for a possible humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Call 800-728-3843, or donate online.
Founded in 1950 to help children orphaned in the Korean War, World Vision continues to assist children, as well as entire communities, with water programs, health care, education, agricultural, and economic development, and strategic Christian leadership activities. During the past year, World Vision has served people in 88 countries. It is currently positioning supplies in several countries bordering Iraq. These supplies, to be distributed with the help of agencies already working in the region, include food, medicine, blankets, winter boots, winter clothing (including 12,500 items of baby and infant clothing) and 7,000 collapsible water containers. World Vision is also stocking "ready-to-go" Family Survival Kits in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands. The kits, which cost $100, contain items such as blankets, water-purification tablets, cooking supplies, hygiene products, and necessary items specific to different situations.
It might not be one of the first things that comes to your mind, but it's one of the first things that comes to the mind of service members who get the word they're deploying: what to do with pets. If you're an animal lover, there are a few organizations that allow you to put that love to work.
When the call to active duty comes, companion animals can be a tough loose end to tie up. This nonprofit service has recruited and screened 5,000 foster caregivers through its MilitaryPets Foster Project. There is no charge to soldiers -- they just fill in an online form describing their pets. Each pet is matched with one or more suitable foster homes. You can help by signing up as a foster-caregiver or making a donation.
Though the Humane Society does not have its own foster program online, the site offers helpful information for military pet owners, including a checklist and sample contract form.