- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Because spirits of all kinds are high on holidays, what better time to share with the needy?

The nationwide Capital Grille restaurants, Lagos jewelers and American Express Co. are inviting customers this season to order a $1,000 charity martini — a colorful cosmopolitan cocktail adorned with a white-topaz-and-diamond rope bracelet — in support of Share Our Strength (SOS), a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Lagos makes the bracelet; Amex is a corporate partner with SOS.

Sound unrealistic to expect people to shell out such an amount in this economy? Never say never, the old saw goes. The same offer last year raised $136,000, according to a Capital Grille spokeswoman.

A less ambitious scheme is Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants Group’s Cocktails for a Cure. For every $12 Rouge on the Rocks, Scarlet Night or Ruby Sparkle cocktail ordered this month and next, the chain will give $1 to local AIDS/HIV charities. The drinks are part of a so-called Red Ribbon Campaign.

For homebodies, an online philanthropic site is promoting the notion of sleeping in instead of shopping on so-called Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally a time when consumers go on a gift-buying frenzy. The idea of GlobalGiving (www.globalgiving.com) and its Great American Sleep-In project is for people with the true giving spirit to pick a cause and make a donation in a loved one’s name for as little as $10.

The money ordinarily spent on a present for someone already well-endowed with possessions goes to others less fortunate. Donors select the locally run charities they want to support. Corporate partners include eBay Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Gap Inc., Nike Inc. and others.

Tripping along

The Trip Advisor, an online travel resource, sponsored a novel campaign from Sept. 15 through Nov. 9, asking visitors to vote on how $1 million should be divided among five travel-related nonprofits — a philanthropic project called More Than Footprints. Doctors Without Borders won 39.2 percent of the vote and will receive that same percentage of the sum. Save the Children, the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and National Geographic Society are to receive a percentage of the rest in descending order.

Helping Hands and Feet

Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that distributes shoes to the needy worldwide — as many as one pair every 23 seconds, it claims — has launched a campaign called 50,000 in 50 days. The project asks the public to donate $5, which will buy two pairs of shoes — and do it by year’s end. A special enticement is built into the plan: a free trip to Mexico for an especially generous soul, plus a guest, to hand-deliver the shoes they bought to a person in Mexico who never before has owned shoes. See soles4souls.org.

Feeding the hungry

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., one of the season’s few corporate money-earners, recently announced plans to donate more than 90 million pounds of fresh food each year through its foundation to Feeding America, the organization formerly known as America’s Second Harvest. The nonprofit normally works with Wal-Mart’s superstores and its neighborhood grocery stores as well as Sam’s Clubs to deliver as much fresh food as possible — food that otherwise might be wasted.

Forty truckloads went to Feeding America last year, according to Deisha Galberth, a Wal-Mart Foundation spokeswoman.

“We then tackled the question of how this could be done on a continual basis and worked hard to be able to find a method,” she adds.

The foundation also plans to make a $2.5 million cash donation to Feeding America for the purchase of refrigerated trucks and other hardware that food banks need for transporting and storing food in such high volume.

Good tidings from Qatar

Here is a novel idea for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday: The ambassador from Qatar, Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri, is preparing a traditional Qatari meal for Miriam’s Kitchen’s guests. About 200 less fortunate people are expected to attend the event at 2401 Virginia Ave. NW, where they will find the ambassador and his chef preparing such dishes as hummus with pita bread, roasted lamb, kabssa rice, fruit salad, semolina cake and apricot juice.

Throughout the year, the nonprofit Miriam’s Kitchen offers a hot breakfast to homeless people each morning in addition to providing many health and social services.

Gift wrap for literacy

The Washington Literacy Council for several years has appealed to book lovers to support its mission to raise literacy levels locally by patronizing bookstores where WLC volunteers wrap presents for customers. A donation of $1 or more per item wrapped supports the work of the group, which claims to be the largest provider of basic adult-literacy services in the District.

Some $17,000 was earned this way last year for WLC programs that train volunteers to teach reading according to up-to-date language-acquisition methods. Anyone interested in offering his or her time and gift-wrapping skills in participating stores should call the council at 202/387-9029 or send e-mail to info@washlit.org.

The council provides the paper and supplies and does not expect experienced wrappers, just vocal ones willing to help raise awareness of its work helping reduce the high number - as many as 37 percent - of residents who are unable to complete a job application or read medicine labels. WLC store captains arrange schedules of volunteers as conveniently as possible up through Dec. 24.

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