Snail mail, email, and social media are ringing with requests and pleas for help from all kinds of organizations at this time of year. You want to help — but how to choose? As much as we might want to, most of us can't afford to give to every place that asks. One suggestion is to pick based on the causes closest to your heart. Here are some ideas for local nonprofits doing wonderful work that would especially welcome your help during this giving season. Donations made to all the organizations listed are tax deductible.Community Foundation of Sonoma County's Resilience FundSupporting Recovery from the Kincade Fire
As we all know, Sonoma County has been hit hard by catastrophic fires for three years in a row. The Community Foundation of Sonoma County's Resilience Fund is the largest long-term recovery fund in Sonoma County. After the 2017 North Bay Firestorm, its grantmaking team met with hundreds of local nonprofit leaders, and sent surveys to over 450 nonprofit organizations. This helped identify three critical assistance categories: Individual need, long-term help with trauma associated with the fires, and housing. Donating to the Resilience Fund will ensure that your help is going directly to the people who need it most.The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and EducationSupporting Caring for the Earth and Fighting Climate Change
Healing our oceans helps heal the whole planet. Oakland's Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education may not be the best-known nonprofit working in this field, but it's doing vital work. Projects include "Enough with the Plastic Already," reducing single-use plastic products, many of which end up in the oceans; "Shark Friendly Communities," creating, promoting and supporting shark conservation and fighting shark finning; "Green Divers for Blue Oceans," educating divers and the diving industry on best conservation practices; "COARE Values for the Classroom," developing an ocean-based curriculum to supplement science education; and "Marine Protected Areas," continuing COARE's work protecting marine wildlife and habitats.Homeless Action CenterSupporting the Unhoused
At this time of year, seeing the many unhoused people on our streets is even more tragic. Berkeley-based Homeless Action Center, which also has offices in Oakland, recognizes that most of those on the streets are "poor, disabled, ill, and marginalized." HAC provides no-cost, barrier-free legal representation for people trying to navigate the maze of social services, including applying for SSI, and accessing General Assistance, CalFresh (food stamps), and Medi-Cal. HAC staff members are trained to deal with those coping with drug or alcohol addiction and mental illness, and people are not turned away because of them.The Social Justice CollaborativeSupporting Immigrant Families
As the debate over immigration continues, caught in the middle are families and children. Berkeley's Social Justice Collaborative has been "protecting the rights of refugees" for years, and is able to provide free representation for children facing deportation thorough its "Unaccompanied Minor Defense" program. SJC's lawyers and legal aides also assist in deportation defense, appeals and federal litigation for adults for very small fees, and work with other immigrant organizations throughout the Bay Area to access other kinds of services.Hopalong & Second Chance Animal RescueSupporting Animals Needing Homes
There are a myriad of organizations doing wonderful work for animals, and one of the best is Hopalong & Second Chance. Oakland-based Hopalong works with shelters, taking in animals at high risk of euthanasia, and finding foster and forever homes for them. Potential adopters are carefully screened and matched with a pet that meets both their and the animal's needs. Hopalong also sponsors a "Pet Survivor Program" that allows pet owners to create a plan for a time when they are no longer able to care for their animals, helping decrease the number of pets in shelters due to owner death or disability.