With the holiday season behind us, it’s easy to slip back into our daily routines. But now, more than ever, it’s vital to keep the holiday spirit alive in the form of giving of our time, talents, and resources as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a wrecking ball to many lives in our community.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and International Food Policy Research Institute:

  • World food prices have hit a global six-year high.
  • More than 50 million Americans will be food insecure in 2020, including about 17 million children.
  • For every 1% decline in global economic growth, 14 to 22 million people are forced into severe poverty.

When determining how to best influence change, it’s best to start locally. Here are the best ways to help Madison’s most impactful charities.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Madison

Second Harvest has an in-depth knowledge of the hunger strife in our community. They know that each hunger story is unique.  All too often, when families don’t have enough money for food, they turn to unhealthy options. As a result, families become malnourished, children have trouble sleeping and focusing in school, and parents have lower energy in their workplaces. Nutrition affects everything.

Second Harvest attempts to combat this cycle. They store over a million pounds of food each day and inspect and deliver food safely. Food is made easily accessible to communities through Second Harvest’s mobile pantries. These distribution methods make it easier to distribute fresh food before they spoil.

Here are some fun facts:

  • Every $1 that is donated to Second Harvest can provide up to 3 meals.
  • One hour of volunteering equals 72 meals.

If this cause speaks to you, you can help by donating food or funds. You can also organize a food drive (or virtual food drive!). Many people will set up a food drive to honor a loved one, a birthday, or an anniversary. Second Harvest makes it easy to do this. They have pre-made food drive template pages that you can edit and make your own.

Has Amazon ever prompted you to use Amazon Smile? For any of you prime members out there, this also helps!  Second Harvest is a registered charity with Amazon Smile, and when you set up your AmazonSmile account, you can set Second Harvest as your beneficiary. Then, anytime you make an Amazon purchase, the company will donate 0.5% of your purchase to this charity, which adds up pretty quickly for avid online shoppers.

Another unique way to help Second Harvest is by “adopting” a dairy cow. Over 6,000 gallons of milk were given to local families in need during the pandemic. Not many people think to donate milk, even though it’s a large nutrition factor for growing families. In fact, 80% of the milk that Second Harvest gives to families in need is purchased by Second Harvest, not donated. As citizens of America’s Dairyland, this will not do! So what exactly does “adopting” a dairy cow mean? Don’t worry; you won’t have to become a farmhand. It simply means that 100% of your donation will go towards closing the milk gap.

You can drop off any donations to Second Harvest Monday-Friday 8:30 am- 4:00 pm.

Click here to donate to Second Harvest.

Community Shares of Madison

Community Shares of Madison is a community action organization. Their main pain points are:

  • Protecting the environment
  • Providing affordable housing
  • Helping citizens with mental illness advocate for themselves
  • Promoting fairness within our communities

Community Shares has over 50 non-profit partners. They can help you connect with the non-profit that best fits your passion. Whether it’s supporting state parks, helping victims of domestic abuse, or empowering the community to vote.

To donate to Community Shares, click here.

United Way of Madison

United Way is a recognizable name, and they have branches in every major US city. They have a reputation for efficiently influencing positive change.

Their priorities are:

  1. Education

United Way helps students succeed in school, despite their race or income level. They also help to ensure students are cared for at home. If home life is stable and nourishing, they will have the best tools to succeed academically.

  1. Income

They help create opportunities to escape poverty. Their results lead to a decrease in local homelessness.

  1. Health

It’s crucial to address health issues early. United Way helps seniors and disabled individuals identify health issues (both physical and mental). They help them find tools to keep their homes throughout their wellness journey.

  1. Community building

United Way has a gift for engaging the community. They work hard to mobilize volunteers to work toward these causes efficiently.

There are plenty of ways to volunteer your time with United Way. You can become a mentor for a child in our community, spend an hour a week working as a delivery driver for meals on wheels, or help keep their food pantry organized.

To donate to United Way, click here.

Project Home

Project Home serves Madison’s low-to-moderate income families by helping them protect their homes. They also help with home repairs, accessibility modifications, winterization, weatherization, and water conservation. They service homes of senior citizens, veterans, single-parent families, and people with disabilities.

Their educational programs help homeowners:

  • Understand how their homes work
  • Maintain their homes
  • Identify quality contractors
  • Do home improvement projects.

To donate to Project Home, click here.

1,000 Friends of Wisconsin

This non-profit’s primary goal is to protect and preserve the environment. This organization does this by focusing on education and bringing educational resources to community members and elected officials. They hope that by educating elected officials, they can influence policies – especially those involving environmentally impactful transit decisions. 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin understands that everything is connected. Through land-use protection and efficient transportation decisions, we can decrease carbon emissions and protect natural resources.

To donate to 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, click here.

Wisconsin Literacy

Did you know that 43% of adults function at the two lowest literacy levels and that 14% of adults can’t fill out a form? Literacy skills lift people out of poverty, unemployment, and crime. More than 1.5 million adults in Wisconsin qualify for literacy aid. This charity’s goal is for all Wisconsin residents to have the literacy skills needed to reach their full potential.

You can help this cause by donating your time and skills. Serve as a tutor or an events coordinator. Help with events like AEFL Week. You can also assist in administrative support in their offices. Or, if you have a flair for marketing, volunteer to help with their social media.

To donate to Wisconsin Literacy, click here.

What’s Your Story?

If you’ve assisted these charities—or any other local non-profit— tell us about your experience. Volunteering can be deeply rewarding, and telling your story can be impactful. We’d love to hear from you.