The Giving List

The air is crisp (ok, some days it is bitingly cold), and a few brief and magical snow flurries have foretold a hopefully white Christmas. There are fragrant fresh green trees and wreaths being sold on street corners all around New York City. Most certainly the holiday season is with us. Cookies are baking, cards being sent, gifts being wrapped and that is where this post is meant to begin.

Tis the season for, among many things, the ritual of gifts both of the receiving and giving kind.  As we gather for the eight nights of Chanukah (although this year along with the Kartowski family we started the a new ritual of the Ninth Night Celebration), or around carefully decorated trees on Christmas mornings, gifts and the idea and act of exchanging small beautifully wrapped tokens of love, appreciation, and kindness abound. And so this seemed a wonderful time to share my list, not for what I hope to receive or plan to give, but a different sort of favorite things list, my favorite charities and places to give that give back and continue the cycle.

This is my short list but a list very close to my heart.

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY: This one is probably closest to my heart. It is both the soup kitchen where my parents met over chopping onions and where they dedicated their lives. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life. I have looked for much of my adult life for another place as special as this and have yet to find one, let me just say this both the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa were impressed.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information.

SEACOLOGY: This is perhaps one of the most brilliant organizations/ideas I have come across. It combines two seemingly insurmountable problems and finds a solution in an ingenious way that serves us all.

“Seacology is the world’s premier nonprofit environmental organization with the sole purpose of preserving the highly endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world.

Indigenous people are all too often faced with the dilemma of choosing between protecting their precious natural resources, and economic development. Seacology searches for win-win situations where both the local environment is protected and islanders receive some tangible benefit for doing so. In Falealupo, Samoa, Seacology built a critically needed school in exchange for the establishment of a 30,000-acre forest reserve.”

Note: Quote taken from Seacology Website. See link for more information.

How brilliant is that!!!

ARS NOVA: How much can I say about this uber cool place for young emerging art and artists. In a creative world that is overrun with revivals, remountings, reimagined productions, what is to come of new art and the luminous minds that create the work of tomorrow and years to come? Ars Nova is dedicated to these creative souls and is giving a home to some of the most extraordinary new generation of artists and their work. I worked here for years and my heart has always remained creatively on 10th Ave and 54th Street.

“Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the early stages of their professional career.  Our unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and encourage innovative, genre-bending work.  By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work.”

Note: Quote taken from Ars Nova Website. See link for more information.

ASTEP – ARTISTS STRIVING TO END POVERTY: I worked with Mary-Mitchell Cambell on a few shows in New York, I remember when she went to India and I was filled with such admiration for her then. Now as this organization continues to grow and the programs reach across the globe and back, I cannot say how much I am in awe and inspired by this organization and Mary-Mitchell Cambell’s work.

“Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP) uses the arts as a tool to empower young people with creativity, knowledge, and a strong sense of self-esteem, factors which help them advance their lives and communities. At ASTEP, we provide artists with opportunities to connect with global youths, allowing them to use their gifts to create meaningful and effective change for young people in need.”

Note: Quote taken from ASTEP Website. See link for more information.

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: “Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.

Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, to challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols.

In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Note: Quote taken from Doctor’s Without Borders Website. See link for more information.

GIRL EFFECT: “The Girl Effect explores the unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls and how they can put an end to poverty for themselves and the world.”

They create some of the greatest and invigorating videos. Get involved and see how the smallest change can have unimaginable impact.

Note: Quote taken from Girl Effect Website. See link for more information.

I hope you saw one or more of your favorite charities on this list, and I hope this inspires you to give just a little more on this holiday season, remember tis also the season of end of the year tax write offs (and that is the gift that keeps giving, and giving, and giving just a bit more).

Also, because I was raised by a family that dedicated their lives to non-profits and to a free soup kitchen, just remember if you are gifted out at this time of year, these lovely organizations need your help year round and not just in the months from November to January. So if it’s a birthday, a thoughtful way to say I am thinking of you, ground hog day makes a great excuse to find a charity that means something to you and find the true joy of the gift that gives boundlessly.

Cheers of the season and love and light to your lives,


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12 2010

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