For many people, giving is at the heart of the holidays — not just to friends and family, but to favorite charities.
When you're familiar with an organization and the work it does, you feel more comfortable that it will use your gifts of time, talent and money wisely. That's easier with a local organization.
People often ask me for examples of reputable national charities that help service members and their families.
Dozens of organizations do great work every day — far too many to list here. But for starters, I looked at some national charities that provide direct assistance to those in the military community and have a proven track record of being good stewards of their funds.
The work of many of these groups is visible in military communities — whether through Fisher Houses or local chapters of the military relief societies, Armed Services YMCA and Operation Homefront.
The 11 examples:
• The four military relief societies — http://www.aerhq.org">Army Emergency Relief, http://www.nmcrs.org">Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, http://www.afas.org">Air Force Aid Society and http://www.cgmahq.org">Coast Guard Mutual Assistance — are private organizations that have offices on military installations and provide emergency financial assistance, mostly interest-free loans, to service members and families in need. They also offer scholarships and have a variety of other programs.
The relief societies are not part of the Combined Federal Campaign but hold their own spring fundraising campaigns within their services. Donations are accepted online any time.
The following are all participants in the Combined Federal Campaign's Military, Veterans and Patriotic Service Organizations federation, but you can also donate to them directly through their websites:
• The http://www.fisherhouse.org">Fisher House Foundation builds "comfort homes" near military and Veterans Affairs medical centers, providing families of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans a free place to stay. By the end of this year, 53 Fisher Houses will be open. One just opened at Dover Air Force Base, Del., for families of the fallen.
Donations can also be made to your local Fisher House.
• The http://www.asymca.org">Armed Services YMCA, with branches or affiliates on or near 23 military bases, offers a variety of programs ranging from summer camps to child care, spouse support programs to holiday dinners, geared for younger enlisted families.
• The http://www.semperfifund.org">Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for injured Marines and sailors, and to members of the other services injured while in support of Marine forces. It also helps these troops' families and provides transition assistance, adaptive housing, adaptive transportation and specialized equipment.
• The http://www.militaryfamily.org">National Military Family Association, known for its long-term advocacy efforts for military families, also has programs such as Operation Purple camps to help military children deal with the stresses of war, and scholarship programs for spouses. You can target donations to specific programs.
• http://www.operationhomefront.net">Operation Homefront, with 23 chapters serving 32 states, provides emergency financial assistance for things such as food, home repairs and critical baby items to military families, with about three-fourths of their clients in the E-1 to E-6 pay grades. The charity offers a variety of other programs such as wounded warrior transitional housing and holiday assistance. In areas where there is no local chapter, the national office provides assistance.
Donations can also be made to your local chapter.
• http://www.taps.org">Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors provides 24-hour support and assistance for those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while on active duty. TAPS has an outreach office at Fort Hood, Texas, and conducts survivor seminars and "Good Grief" camps for children around the country.
• http://www.usacares.org">USA Cares offers emergency financial assistance to military families, including those in the National Guard and Reserve. Other programs include assisting troops with essential household bills while they are attending a residential treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder; and a program that helps military families avoid foreclosure or eviction.
If you're looking for a way to take care of your holiday list in short order, consider donating to charity in the name of your friends or loved ones. Talk about stretching your dollars!
Questions? Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Consumer%20Watch:%20Charities%20that%20hit%20home">E-mail staff writer email@example.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers.