- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Well, readers, the Thanksgiving turkey is long gone, and your Christmas menu is still being planned. The malls are jamming, and the "experts" are doling out advice on taxes and estate planning. Guess the holiday season is in high gear.

Now I don't want to come off as some Grinch who's trying to steal Christmas, but I'd like to take just a few moments to ask you to rechannel your energy.

You know as well as I do that giving to charities or to your house of worship is the right thing to do.

I don't have to preach to you about tithing, and I hope I don't have to break into a long song and dance about how many folks are hungry and homeless.

And I know I don't have to drone about children needing money for school or addicts needing prayer and tough love to get off dope.

And I certainly hope I don't have to recite frightening statistics about AIDS or other illnesses to get you to understand how important medical research is.

Instead, I would like to take this time to actually pitch a few worthy causes.

Some are nonprofit organizations and have 501(c)3 status, which generally means your gifts are tax deductible, so your donation helps someone else and you, too.

I'm going to make things really easy for you by providing telephone numbers and addresses. Many of these organizations allow you to donate on line, so I've added Web sites so you can see for yourself the work they do.

First up is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nmss.org). This is a truly personal pitch because my big brother, William, has MS. Mail your donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 733 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10011, or call 800/FIGHT-MS.

I have a personal reason for suggesting the Alzheimer's Association, too. My daddy had Alzheimer's, rest his soul, and died of the baffling disease in 1991. Visit the Web site (www.alz.org), call 800/272-3900 or mail your check to the Alzheimer's Association at 919 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1100, Chicago, Ill. 60611-1676.

You don't have to lift many fingers to donate to the Salvation Army because its bell ringers and kettles are always visible this time of year. These folks, bless their hearts, do more than you might know, including helping people who abuse drugs and alcohol. If you miss them while out and about shopping or dining, check the Web site (www.salvationarmy.org).

Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provide comfort and care for families of sick children as well as health-care programs in underserved communities, and the Tom Joyner Foundation have teamed up for a special partnership to help children attend college by providing scholarships.

Now Mr. Joyner, whose radio show airs on 102.3 FM in the Washington area, takes a lot of positions on a lot of issues, and he always stands on the same side if you know what I mean. But when it comes to helping children stay in school, hey, what can I say?

You can give to either or both organizations: the Tom Joyner Foundation at www.tomjoyner.com, 900/933-GIVE, PO Box 630495, Irving, Texas 75063; Ronald McDonald House Charities at www.rmhc.com, 1 Kroc Drive, Oak Brook, Ill. 60523.

I'm making a big pitch as well for the Whitman Walker Clinic because, when it comes to HIV/ AIDS education and outreach, Whitman Walker is a beacon of light. Visit its Web site (www.whitmanwalker.org). The mailing address is 1407 S St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.

Also high on my list are organizations that offer free meals, transportation, tutoring and respite care and if they don't provide those services themselves, they do lobby and will at least point you in the right direction.

• Ovarian Cancer National Alliance: www.ovarian cancer.org, 202/331-1332 or 703/684-4357.

• Greater Washington Urban League: www.gwul.org, 202/265-8200, 3501 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010.

• National Council of Negro Women: www.ncnw.com, 202/383-9134, 633 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.

• American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org; PO Box 96911, Washington, D.C. 20090-6911.

If you're not into giving away money, though I know you have some to spare, there are other ways of giving. You can volunteer, donate a car or other items, or donate stock and still get a tax break.

High school students who volunteer a few hours a week can earn credit if their school districts mandate community service as a graduation requirement.

When you donate appreciated stock you have held for more than a year, for example, you get a full fair-market value and avoid paying the tax on the built-in capital gains.

See there. I promised I wouldn't take much of your time, and I didn't.

You, on the other hand, have until Dec. 31 to think things over and make that donation before the tax man cometh.

Enjoy the holidays and, please, help someone else do the same.

Deborah Simmons is an editorial writer and columnist for The Washington Times. She can be reached by e-mail (simmon@twtmail.com)

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