If you happen to have spare clothing, appliances, furniture, office equipment or those two most precious commodities -- time and money -- an awful lot of people in Baltimore and surrounding areas would be delighted to hear from you. In this, the traditional season of Thanksgiving and giving, you can help those in need. Attend dances, festivals and feasts that raise money for charities. Purchase charity raffle tickets. Or instead of buying something for a person who already has everything, make a charitable donation in her name.
When you do give, remember that thoroughly investigating a charity safeguards your contribution and also helps to ensure that services are actually delivered to people who need them. While most charities are well-managed, a few are not, and these few can cause problems for the rest.
Listed below are a few suggestions for local charities that need your help.
AIDS Action, 2105 N. Charles St. Baltimore 21218, 837-2437. AIDS Action opened its doors in 1987, when the people who eventually became its board members saw that many of their friends were dying. "These were people who didn't need AIDS education," says the organization's only full-time employee, Jeffrey Grabelle. "They needed emergency assistance fast."
To meet emergency needs of patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS Action operates a financial assistance fund (for rent, utility and medical bills); runs a hot line offering AIDSinformation; helps people find appropriate social services, and runs a clothing bank. In addition, it contributes to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Frank B. Poke Emergency fund for hospital AIDS patients with financial problems, as well as to the University of Maryland Hospital's pediatric AIDS patients. Aids Action also publishes an AIDS resource guide for Baltimore.
In 1989, AIDS Action received no state or city funds, but raised about $140,000 through private donations and the United Way. And $100,000 of that went directly into patient services.
The Helping Hand, 82 Clay St., Annapolis 21401, (301) 268-9075. The Helping Hand, directed by Cassaundra Brown, provides emergency assistance, clothing, furniture, food and shelter to the needy, and especially for those experiencing evictions, fires or other critical situations. Ms. Brown has a staff of three. "Any contribution is needed and appreciated," she says. "And we desperately need volunteers."
The Helping Hand's operating budget is $125,000, with 31 percent coming from United Way, and a small percentage from the state homeless commission. This year, the organization raised about $33,000 plus accepted clothes, furniture and appliances.
Christopher Place, 709 Eager St., Baltimore 21202, 576-0066. Christopher Place runs a day drop-in program where homeless men can shower, rest and do their laundry. In addition, a night shelter for homeless men is available. The program's goal is to help men get off the streets.
To achieve the goal, Christopher Place operates as a program rather than simply as a shelter. Staff members sit down with each man seeking help to explain rules and curfews; violators can be asked to leave the program. Then the staff and the man come up with a plan, outlining concrete steps that must be taken to achieve a life off the streets. In addition to providing shelter, Christopher Place offers employment counseling, housing assistance, health care and legal aid.
"We do anything we can to help each man," Sister Catherine Gugerty, the director, says. "If they need a job and have interviews, we help them get there, whether it takes giving them bus tokens or driving them. "
The program runs 24 hours, seven days a week, with a staff of 20. Its $500,000 budget is funded through Associated Catholic Charities and United Way grants and some government money. Christopher Place relies on about $100,000 per year in private donations. Half of the monies go to salaries, and half to operating expenses including food, supplies and transportation. A similar program for women is My Sister's Place, 727-3523.
Florence Crittenton Services, 3110 Crittenton Place, Baltimore 21211, 366-4333. Florence Crittenton is a 24-hour residential facility for 13- to 17-year-old girls taken out of their home due to neglect, abuse or sexual abuse. The girls are referred by the Department of Social Services or the Juvenile Service Administration.
Although Crittenton runs an accredited school where students can earn a GED, its mission is to raise skill levels and send girls back into community schools.
The facility receives state reimbursements, but also has a fund-raising arm to supplement the regular program.