Unfortunately, we've seen an awful avalanche of tragedies over the past year all around the world, from the earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Japan. More recently, the disasters have hit home, as we've experienced the most destructive tornado season in years. Hundreds have died in Alabama and Missouri, and we've seen a staggering amount of destruction.
In times like these, people come together and the outpouring of support can make a huge difference for those caught up in the disaster. Organizations like the Red Cross have seen an impressive spike in donations.
While disasters highlight the need to help others, there are always people in need and there are tons of outlets out there that do incredible work in the service of others. If you're fortunate enough to be able to help out, you won't have any trouble finding charities that address a cause you care about. Even a small donation can have a significant impact.
We've highlighted five below that you might consider as you get started.
THE RED CROSS
As we mentioned above, the Red Cross is a leading organization to help people at home and around the world who are facing disaster and tragedy. They're one of the first responders in helping people with their immediate needs in the wake of a disaster. The American Red Cross has been the nation's premier emergency response organization since it was founded in 1881. The Red Cross is also a leading organization in "the collection, processing and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products."
WOUNDED WARRIORS PROJECT
We've faced over a decade of war in this country. Modern medical advancements have helped to reduce the number of deaths on the battlefield, but the overall number of casualties is staggering. More than 40,000 service members have been injured in the current conflicts, along with more than 300,000 men and women who are believed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Wounded Warriors Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with the following purpose: (1) to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, (2) to help injured service members aid and assist each other; and (3) to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
ST. JUDE'S CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
The late entertainer Danny Thomas founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962 as a "place for needy children, a place where they would be cared for regardless of race, religion or ability to pay -- a hospital where no suffering child would be turned away." His daughter Marlo Thomas continues to champion the cause of the institution, which has grown to be one of the leading research organizations in the world for childhood cancer. With research and patient care all under one roof, it's also a unique organization in how it attacks catastrophic illnesses like cancer in children.
This unique organization started out when Sal Khan began using Yahoo! Messenger back in 2004 to help his niece with her math homework. He soon moved on to creating short instructional videos and uploading them to YouTube, and other students began to find them. Since then his free website called Khan Academy had more than 2 million visitors and may be starting a revolution in education. Check it out and you'll be sharing the link with your own family members and friends who have kids. The Khan Academy has attracted donations from some of the most influential people in Silicon Valley along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but it's a great cause for anyone who values education and understands the power of technology and social media.
YOUTH SPORTS AND MUSIC PROGRAMS
Budget constraints have affected the sports and music programs in schools all around the country. Many kids no longer have the opportunity to participate in these activities without donations from the community. Often, the kids themselves are very involved in the fundraising efforts, with many going door to door or coming up with creative fundraisers. With this type of giving, you can help more kids have the experiences that help round out their education, while also rewarding the kids who spend time trying to raise money. Do some research about the programs in your area and you'll find plenty of worthy causes.
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