WHO DOESN'T LOVE #GivingTuesday, the click'n'give philanthropy stunt that went down yesterday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving?
It's a blast-of-cold-air antidote to the gluttony of the prior week: Thanksgiving, when we shovel food down our gullets as though we'll never taste Aunt Patty's stuffing again; and Black Friday/Blacker Saturday/Blackest Sunday/Cyber Monday, when we shovel debt onto our credit cards as if a Santa himself is paying for little Billy's GoPro.
GivingTuesday relegates charitable giving to one day of the year, which is awesome if you'd never otherwise open your wallet for a cause. Or if you relish the fun of being part of a virtual flash mob whose contributions fatten the day's multimillion-dollar tally, tracked in real time on www.GivingTuesday.org.
But I'm hoping that GivingTuesday's heady mojo piques a broader intrigue about the nonprofits that do God's work on the 364 days we're not paying attention.
If you're looking for worthy yearlong recipients of your time and heart, here are four of my local favorites. What I love about them is that they change lives by changing perceptions of the lives they're changing.
And that, my friends, changes everything.
Take Vision For Equality Inc. (www.visionforequality.org), whose angel staffers get their wings every time they help a family find help to care for a loved one with a disability. The need is staggering: In Pennsylvania alone, more than 13,700 families - many of them elderly parents caring for disabled, middle-age children - are on a waiting list for state support.
These families are not looking to shift the entire burden of care to taxpayers; they're just asking for a little help so they can continue to look after their loved ones at home, in familiar surroundings, with kin who know them well and love them deeply.
But these families get strangled by government red tape until they're choking. Vision For Equality raises holy hell on their behalf, forcing agency workers who've stopped hearing cries for help to unplug their own ears and give it.
I'm also a rabid fan of YouthBuild Philly Charter School, (www.youthbuildphilly.org), whose students - former high-school dropouts - come from tough backgrounds. Many are parents. Some have criminal records; many more have been victims of crime themselves. And all are desperate to turn their lives around.
YouthBuild helps students get their diplomas while developing skills - in trades like construction, computer repair and nursing assistance - to help them earn a paycheck after graduation. They're provided with mentors, counseling and child care and go on to create lives of independence and contribution.
Wanna feel your heart burst in your chest? Go to YouthBuild's next graduation. You'll be blown away by how these kids have triumphed over hardship.
If you like to donate both sweat and money to a great cause, you can do both for Gearing Up (www.gearing-up.org). Founded in 2009, the nonprofit runs group bike rides for women three times a week out of three recovery houses in Philadelphia. The program also conducts regular spinning classes at Riverside Correctional Center, Philly's women's prison on State Road.
Gearing Up uses bicycling to help women transition from incarceration to freedom. And when they've accumulated 150 miles on their group rides, Gearing Up gives them a bike of their own so they can continue to enjoy the everyday freedom and independence of getting where they need to go with just the push of a pedal.
Gearing Up needs funds, always, but also volunteers to guide the rides. If you've got sweat to spare, get in touch with this wonderful group.
Last is Broad Street Ministry, (www.broadstreetministry.org), a self-described "broad-minded Christian community that practices radical hospitality and works for a more just world through civic engagement."
I love that term - "radical hospitality" - especially as it is practiced at BSM. Six times a week, volunteers at the mammoth church, which sits across the street from the Kimmel Center on the Avenue of the Arts, feed thousands of homeless men and women who dine among members of the congregation.
Everyone sits on comfy chairs at cloth-covered tables and eats hearty meals served on real plates, with real silverware and real cups. They're offered extra helpings and given extra fruit and bread when they leave.
As everyone dines, mental-health and other social-services staffers amble among them.
"Over a low-key dinner, at a table, you're engaged on a different level," Pastor Bill Golderer told me. "That's key. No one feels like an outsider. So we can ask about meds, or bring up drug treatment, and then help them fill out forms. There's a dignity to the process that moves the process beyond just feeding."
Dignity is the word I use most often to describe these wonderful, do-gooder groups. They offer it in spades to the people they love and serve.
Not just on Tuesday, but every day of the week.
On Twitter: @RonniePhilly