Like everyone else, I find myself at the end of another pandemic-filled year, and still with no clear idea of whether the world is getting better or worse. Rising COVID numbers and burnout are everywhere, but so are vaccines and outpourings of kindness. Those outpourings — including in the form of formal donations — are on my mind a lot right now. When it comes to donating to worthy causes, I try to give what I can when I can, but sometimes I reach the end of the year and wonder why it all feels so haphazard. Have I done enough? Sometimes I stress out at the idea that I should be making a big year-end donation at the very time of year when my finances have the least wiggle room.
So maybe it’s time for a reframing. I’d like to think that giving doesn’t have to be a grand year-end gesture. There are lovely, simple, easy-peasy things we can do now and throughout the year that add up to a big impact. Grand gestures and year-end donations, when we have the means, are still fantastic — after all, direct cash donations give the most bang for the buck — but it’s perfectly legitimate to practice generosity and fill in the gaps through a mindful approach to our everyday, capitalism-driven lives.
Here are some places and ways to give generously and support local in ridiculously easy ways. This list is just a beginning! Feel free to add ideas in the comments.
La Montañita Food Co-op’s Round Up for Change program happens right at the register in this local, cooperatively operated grocery chain. It’s a quick, painless way to donate some change. For example, if you spend $9.57, you can choose to round up the amount to an even $10 and donate the difference to a local charity. New recipients rotate in each month; past beneficiaries have included Meals on Wheels ABQ and Crossroads for Women.
Mama’s Minerals, that wonderland of geodes, crystals and beads, also has a program for rounding up whatever you spend at the register. Donations made in their store will be split between Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico and The Barrett Foundation, which provides shelter and supportive services to women and children experiencing homelessness, through the end of the year. They’re also drumming up direct donations on Facebook for both worthy organizations.
Shop and donate at thrift stores. I like this one because it’s also a gift for me, ha ha. Albuquerque is a great town for thrifting. Besides a ton of religiously affiliated shops, there’s Thrift-A-Lot (benefiting the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico), the Animal Humane Thrift Shop, Silver Horizons (benefitting low-income seniors) and the Women’s Housing Coalition Thrift Store. Make room for more thriftscores by cleaning out your closets and making donations first. That’s one I need to work on.
Habitat for Humanity has ReStore, a thrift store of their own selling home improvement supplies. They’ve also partnered with an app called GiveTide. You install it on your phone, and it allows you to donate the round-up amount from any credit or debit purchases you make. While free to users, GiveTide does take a chunk of the donation amount, so do weigh whether you’re most likely to do good through a spontaneous donation, or an app that takes on the legwork for you.
ABQ Mutual Aid is a boots-on-the-ground kind of assistance organization. They create and distribute care packages throughout Albuquerque based on direct community requests, using funds and food donated by the community. They accept both direct cash donations and volunteers — which makes them a little less on the “super-easy” side than some groups in this list. But if you’re interested in making a big impact in a very immediate way, rather than one filtered through the many bureaucratic layers of a large organization, this is the worthy cause for you.
Food Is Free Albuquerque describes themselves as “primarily a gleaning group.” So get gleaned, y’all. Their mission is to distribute local crops, whether from farms or backyards, to hungry mouths. They help community members harvest their own crops, or they pick up and distribute crops you’ve harvested yourself. They’re constantly partnering with other nonprofits to maximize good in the community, so watch their social media for the latest ways to help.
And have you heard about ABQ Free Fridge? I think this is just the most exquisitely beautiful expression possible of community love. Recognizing that we are all in this together, their motto is “Solidarity, not charity.” Currently located at 606 Broadway Blvd. SE, the city’s first Free Fridge is open 24/7 to allow anyone to give or take whatever they need. Are your fruit trees overflowing? Got a bumper crop of zucchini? Put it in the fridge for your community. The mutual aid group’s goal is to “place community refrigerators and pantries across the city.” They also accept pantry and personal care items.