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    Annie's Mailbox

    Ask Amy column

    Dear readers: I love the holiday season. For me, Christmas is a celebration of possibilities accompanied by an explosion of generosity.

    Every year I publish a column devoted to spreading the spirit of giving. My recommendations are subjective and reflect my own interests and passions.

    I encourage readers to contribute according to their own interests and to research prospective charities, as I do, using


    This year, like many readers, I’m also “going local.” This might mean contributing to a local food bank or after-school arts program. I’d like to inspire readers to take good care of one another, this season and beyond.

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    Providing food assistance: Feeding America ( is a national network of food banks that last year provided food for more than 25 million low-income people, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors. Chances are, your local food bank is part of the Feeding America network. Donors can provide two weeks’ worth of meals to a family for $21.

    Providing disaster relief: During times of national and natural disasters, the American Red Cross ( is there, supporting local services and providing food and emergency shelter. The organization now offers much-needed help to military families.

    Serving our military: I am honored each year to highlight the work of the Fisher House Foundation (www.fisherhouse
    .org), which provides comfortable temporary housing to families of wounded soldiers while they receive treatment and rehabilitation at military medical centers. Having family nearby promotes healing.

    Wounded service members returning home have needs that extend beyond their medical recovery. Homes for our Troops ( has a simple and vital mission: It builds specially adapted houses for disabled service members so they can live independently in their hometowns.


    International: Doctors Without Borders (www.doctorswith sends medical teams to war zones that others have fled, providing urgent medical care to victims of conflict.

    Refugees International ( advocates for people who have no voice: refugees displaced by catastrophe or conflict.

    Helping children: Save the Children (www.savethechildren
    .org) works in 50 countries, including the United States. This established charity is a leader in serving the needs of children and their families.

    The Blinknow Foundation was founded by New Jersey native Maggie Doyne when she was barely out of high school. Now this remarkable young woman is housing, feeding, and educating 300 orphans in Nepal at the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School. To donate, check

    Cradles to Crayons provides new or nearly new children’s items to kids living in poverty. It runs warehouses staffed by 1,000 volunteers who sort and distribute necessities through social service agencies in Boston and Philadelphia. Check to donate supplies and money.


    The Hetrick-Martin Institute ( was founded by a New York psychiatrist and a professor who were appalled by the plight of gay youths who had nowhere to turn for answers, kindness, and hope. This established charity provides after-school programs, assistance, and counseling services.

    Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.