A Look Back: Every Penny Counts

Editor’s note: This post first ran on Thanksgiving 2009. I am publishing it again today in honor of Giving Tuesday. I still highly recommend The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund for holiday donations!

Before I was a mom, I had a long career in non-profits, including both fundraising and grantmaking for New York City charities. I’ve told you about two non-profits that are close to my heart (and whose boards I serve on), The Blue Card and YAI.

Today seems the right day to mention a charity that my children and I have chosen to support this winter, The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Every year since 1912, The New York Times has told the stories of local individuals and families in distress. They are people of all backgrounds and ages in the NYC area. Readers’ donations- which are administered and distributed via seven participating social welfare agencies- make a difference in these people’s lives. In 1912, 117 contributors sent in $3,630.88. In 2008-2009, 10,838 readers contributed $6.9 million.

Last month, my 6-year-old and I read about this story about a poverty-stricken family in the Bronx- a single mother, daughter, and autistic son- who shared one futon to sleep at night, causing the daughter to suffer from fatigue in school every day. Last year, the Fund gave them family $1200 to buy new furniture, something that has measurably improved their quality of life. The daughter (now 10 years old) was pictured on her new bed (see photo above). This photo seemed to resonate with my own daughter. “She didn’t have a bed before?” she asked incredulously. “And where did her doll sleep?”

This year we continued our tradition of emptying our change jar to see how much we’ve collected, and the kids get to decide where to donate this money. This year, we collected $27.14 which we will give to the The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Last year, R. had balked at giving all the money away. This year, she eagerly counted right down to the pennies and said, “Maybe they can help two kids with this.”

Not all of the New York Times Neediest Cases stories are appropriate for children my daughter’s age (first grade), but some are. Check them out with your own kids here, and click here to make a donation.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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