An appeal for charity
As many folks here know, for the past two years I've had the honor of working for Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organization based in Portland, Oregon. Even if you are just a casual visitor to The Fresh Loaf, you may have noticed the Mercy Corps banners and tiles that I run for free here from time-to-time.
Once a year or so I feel it is worth making a case for Mercy Corps and other charitable causes here, so let this be my annual appeal to The Fresh Loaf community. This is my own personal appeal, not anything written by, endorsed by, or paid for by Mercy Corps. And, yes, I'm abusing my administrator privileges by posting this here rather than in my blog or the "Off-Topic" forum. Please indulge me this one time a year.
2008 has been a busy year at Mercy Corps. In the spring we responded to both the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in Southern China. Our programs in both place continue today with our teams helping locals replant rice fields, restore clean drinking water to their villages, and rebuild their local economies. Since then we have also responded to the terrible floods in Honduras  and the growing cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe . We continue to work in more than thirty countries worldwide, helping those in the greatest need build secure, productive and just communities for themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, 2008 has been a very tough year for charities and non-profits. For the first eleven months of the year the US elections drew away people's attention from charitable activities. Rather than organize a local food drive or raise awareness of global crisis, many people worked and raised money for the candidates and party of their choice. That level of participation in and excitement about this election was wonderful but, as I said, it made it a very difficult fundraising environment for charities and non-political causes.
Now we all watch the economic crisis worsen. Many of us have watched the values of our houses or investments shrink; we feel less certain by the day that our jobs are secure. This time of year is typically the most active time of year at charitable organizations, but charities from the Salvation Army to The Red Cross are reporting that giving is off steeply this year.
Which is highly unfortunate, because this year the need is greater than ever. In most communities in America, food banks are serving record numbers of people. Around the globe, disasters, both natural and man-made, continue to make issues such as food scarcity and basic nutrition ongoing problems.
Any way you can help charities or community groups this year will be appreciated. If one of the things you want to give thanks for is The Fresh Loaf, please consider making a donation to Mercy Corps  or a similar organization. Even a small donation, such as the purchase of an inexpensive Mercy Kit  as an alternative to a traditional Christmas gift, helps fund programs for those who need them most.
Mercy Corps, obviously, isn't the only way to help, it is just the organization I know best and whose commitment to serve I can personally vouch for. Ringing bells for the Salvation Army , giving extra food to a local food bank, volunteering for Meal on Wheels , spending an afternoon at a local church or synagogue that feeds the homeless are all wonderful ways to help out. And while hunger is an ongoing problem that is of great concern to me, plenty of other institutions could use your support as well. The word on the street is that cultural institutions such as art museums, historical societies, and symphonies are seeing some of the worst drops in giving this year since they can't even make the case that supporting them helps ease the effects of the current economic downturn. But their closure would be a tragedy for the cities and communities we live in.
So please consider being as generous as you can afford to be this year. Take the time to think about ways your celebration of the holidays can make your community or the world a better place and don't forget to count your blessings.
For those folks who regularly support charities or volunteer their time, thank you so much for your support. Your gifts mean more than ever this year.