Making a Difference

by Beth Hering


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During tough economic times, many people and organizations rely more heavily on the generosity of others. As much as some of us wish to help, however, our own financial situation can make it difficult to give to charities. The following are some simple ways to make a difference in the lives of others without making your wallet empty.

Click for a Cause

Turn on your computer and visit "The Breast Cancer Site" (TheBreastCancerSite.com) and "The Hunger Site" (TheHungerSite.com). By simply clicking on the easy-to-spot button on these web pages, you can get businesses to fund mammograms for women in need and donate food to hungry children. Clicks in 2002 resulted in more than 1,600 free mammograms and some 2,700 metric tons of food.

Businesses that sponsor the sites want you to see their ads often, so their donations are based on the number of people visiting the web page each day. To make it easy to return on a regular basis, add the web addresses to your "favorites" list. Get friends and family involved by using the provided link on the site to tell them about this quick, no-cost way of helping out.

Go the Extra Mile to Help Children

Donate your frequent-flyer miles to a worthy cause. American Airlines sponsors "Miles for Kids in Need," a program that helps provide free transportation to seriously ill children and their families. Delta's "SkyWish" program lets you put your miles into the account of a charity you select from a list. United Way and the Make-A-Wish Foundation are among the potential recipients. See each airline's website for details (AA.com and Delta.com, respectively).

Give Your Plastic Some Power

Want to help your alma mater, but don't have spare cash? Consider getting a credit card that donates a percentage of your purchase total to the college of your choice. The card itself, which is issued through major companies like Visa and MasterCard, often bears the school colors or mascot, which makes it a nice way to show school spirit, too. Contact your alumni office for information.

Help a local elementary or high school by signing up for a Target Visa (see Target.com or the customer service counter at a Target store). Make purchases anywhere using the card, and the school of your choice benefits. The percentage donated is even higher when you use the card at Target.

Turn Labels into Loot

Another great way to help elementary schools is by participating in label-saving programs. Two of the most widespread programs are Campbell's Labels for Education and General Mills' Box Tops for Education. They both operate on the same concept. Save the appropriate part of the food packaging from participating products and give what you collect to the school of your choice. Schools in turn redeem these labels for money or supplies. In addition to the variety of soups Campbell's puts out, Pepperidge Farm products also count. The General Mills family includes Pillsbury, Green Giant, and Betty Crocker.

To make collection easy, secure an envelope to your fridge with a magnet. Seal up the envelope and deliver or send to the school when it becomes full. If your office has a refrigerator, consider putting a collection envelope there, too.

Eat Ice Cream

Seriously. Ice cream sales often go up in troubling times because eating dessert is one of the more affordable ways to have fun. You can further rationalize your purchase by choosing a socially-conscious brand. Ben and Jerry's has a line of "For a Change" flavors that helps support small-scale farmers, while a portion of the profits from the sales of Edy's products featuring Samoas, Tagalongs, and Thin Mints goes to the Girl Scouts. Too bad donations aren't made for calories.

Spread the Word

The old adage of strength in numbers holds true for many of these charitable ideas. People often welcome the chance to help others (especially when they can do so without shelling out money) but do not know how. Let family, friends, and coworkers know what they can do. Photocopying this article and tacking it to an office bulletin board is a good start. Then, be on the lookout for other charitable opportunities to pass along.


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