Our Favorite Charities

In this season of guilt and giving, we asked Slate staffers and contributors to recommend their favorite charities. Here are their responses.

Anne Applebaum, Contributor
Washington, D.C.’s City Lights School is not just a school, it’s also a psychological treatment center for young people who have been in trouble (“high-risk,” in other words), who could not return to regular city public schools. Woodley House, a residential halfway house, offers supportive services for people with mental illness. You can reach them at 2711 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008;

Josh Daniel, Managing Editor
The Braille Institute, which offers books on tape to the visually impaired in Southern California, and Northwest Harvest, which provides bags of food—dry goods, canned vegetables, etc.—to poor people in and around Seattle.

Gretchen Evanson, Office Manager
American Cancer Society and Habitat for Humanity International.

Margo Howard, Contributor
The charity of my choice is Community Servings of Boston, which prepares and delivers hot meals to AIDS patients and their households. It’s a great group, and most of their money goes to providing services—not overhead.

Cyrus Krohn, Associate Publisher
Special Operations Warrior Foundation provides scholarships and educational counseling to children surviving special operations service members killed in the line of duty in operational or training missions. I supported the defense community before Sept. 11 and am pleased to be able to recommend this organization now. Any time is a good time, but in light of the recent casualties to our military personnel, I hope you’ll consider giving to this 501(c)(3). HOOAH!

Kathleen Kincaid, Design Director
I give to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation through the Row for the Cure race every year. This is a personal cause of mine—cancer is unfortunately big in my family: An aunt and sister-in-law are breast cancer survivors, and my mother is a colon cancer survivor (five years healthy!). The foundation raises money for breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment. I also give to my local NPR station, because I am a This American Life, Market Place, and Car Talk freak. I have very fond memories of looking forward to picking up NPR stations as we drove across the country from the East Coast to Seattle seven years ago.

Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor
My favorite charity is the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. It’s Paul Newman’s camp (now several camps) for seriously ill children with cancer and blood diseases. He started it in 1988 with the proceeds from his spaghetti sauces and salad dressings, and it’s grown into a magical place for hundreds of kids to just “be kids” for a few weeks in the summer. I was a counselor at the camp for several summers and can confidently assert that it’s the happiest place on the planet.

Jennifer Mendelsohn, Contributor
The Earth Conservation Corps is an Americorps program that puts disadvantaged young people (in D.C.’s Anacostia and on Indian reservations throughout the Pacific Northwest) to work on environmental projects, including restoring eagle habitat in the nation’s capital.

Lucas Miller, Contributor
The NYC Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund and the P.O. James P. Leahy Memorial Fund. As a police detective, my loyalty is to the NYPD, and therefore my grief is centered around our loss. Contributing to a charity that benefits both the NYPD and the fire department seems like a way to be loyal and take into account the huge loss of life in the FDNY.

James Leahy was assigned to the Sixth Precinct, where I met him in 1992. I will remember him as a good cop and a good guy. He responded to the World Trade Center when news of the plane crashes came over the radio. At 9:35 a.m. he called his family and left a message that he was inside the building and was fine. He helped clear the 28th floor of Building 1. He was aware that Building 2 had fallen when he heard that there were people trapped on the 80th floor of Building 1. He radioed his partner that he made it up there. Building 1 fell shortly thereafter. Jim left behind his wife of 19 years, Marcela, as well as his three children: James Jr., 19; Danny, 13; and John, 6. Jim was 38. The fund will benefit his sons. The address is: Sixth Police Precinct, 233 West 10th St., New York, NY 10014.

Nell Minow, Contributor
The  Little Brothers of the Poor  bring food to the elderly poor, but they also bring flowers, because they believe that “before material necessities, there must also be warmth, love, understanding and dignity, the flowers of a true friendship.” The 310,000 community-based volunteers of Reading Is Fundamental  gave 14 million new books to children this year, along with resources and encouragement to help them learn to love reading.

Scott Moore, Publisher
My favorite charitable act this year occurred as my father, brother, and I made our way home on Washington State Highway 101 on Sept. 17. We had spent a long weekend touring the Olympic Peninsula, hiking Hurricane Ridge high in the Olympic mountains to watch a spectacular sunset and walking out the next morning to the “edge of the world” on a bluff at Cape Flattery, overlooking a steel gray sky and the sea pounding against the sandstone. A lone bagpiper emerged from the forest to stand on the cliff and played a heartrending rendition of “Amazing Grace” on his mournful instrument. It was Sunday morning, and I thought of the millions of people around the world trying to make sense of the senseless destruction that had occurred a few days earlier. I was thankful for the opportunity to commune with my own thoughts in that cold but beautiful place listening to my favorite hymn.

The next day, as we were passing through the small town of Aberdeen, we came to a stoplight where I could see fire trucks and ambulances parked on the side of the road with lights flashing. I thought, “Uh-oh, there must be an accident, we’ll be delayed getting home.” Then I noticed the firemen standing in the middle of the road between the lanes. They were wearing their uniforms, including boots and overcoats. But their fire hats were in their hands and they were holding them out to the windows of cars waiting for the light to change. The only words they spoke were “thank you” as they accepted donations from every car that passed. I placed my bills in the hat and thanked the fireman. Then I fought back tears of grief for the families of all the innocent people who had died. But part of me was happy. Because here, literally a continent away from the devastation, people were responding spontaneously with small gestures of support and solidarity toward those who needed it most.

I don’t have advice on what charity to support—it’s a decision each person should weigh for themselves. This year we will give to the United Way, the Nature Conservancy, Big Brothers, and the family of a New York City cop I never met, who died trying to save other people he’d never met. I will offer this advice, though: Think it over, and whatever you decide, do it.

Robert Neubecker, Illustrator
The New York City Rescue Mission was founded in 1872 by Jerry McAuley, a reformed alcoholic who had gone to prison for crimes committed while drinking. The mission provides spiritual hope, food, clothing, and shelter to those who appear on their doorstep, many of whom are homeless alcoholics.

David Plotz, Washington Bureau Chief
The Seed Foundation and School of Washington, D.C., is an urban, public boarding school. A charter school, Seed is targeted at D.C. junior- and senior-high-school students who can benefit from its full-immersion, 24/7 schedule. It opened in 1998 and now has nearly 200 kids enrolled in seventh-10th grades. (It will eventually cover seventh-12th grades.) It’s a wonderfully impressive place: Kids from troubled families and terrible neighborhoods are studying hard and learning and playing and living safely on Seed’s urban campus.

Why does a public charter school deserve your money? Seed gets some funds from the District government, but not enough to pay for the extra costs it incurs as a boarding school. The charitable Seed Foundation is collecting both to meet everyday needs and to fund construction of the school’s new campus.

Katha Pollitt, Contributor
The National Network of Abortion Funds is an umbrella group for state and local abortion funds that help poor women—15,000 last year alone—find and pay for abortions not covered by Medicaid. As little as $100 can mean the difference between graduating and dropping out, leaving an abusive relationship or staying—even life and death. The Canadian Harambee Education Society supports girls’ education in Kenya and Tanzania by paying high-school fees and providing other support for girls who do well on admissions tests but cannot afford tuition—which can equal a whole year’s income for a poor family. Three hundred U.S. dollars underwrites one student, who sends letters and report cards.

Moira Redmond, Fray Editor
Oxfam tries to help the poor around the world, to rescue people hit by emergencies, and to look for long-term solutions to problems of poverty. They support fair trade with, and debt relief for, the Third World; and they are also water experts: When refugee camps are set up, Oxfam is there organizing water supplies. I have supported Oxfam all my working life, and I personally guarantee that your money will be put to good use.

William Saletan, Senior Writer
Doctors Without Borders: Low overhead. No politics. Essential aid to people who urgently need it. A great way to make sure your money is doing something good.

Scott Shuger, Senior Writer
My candidates are two community service outfits that I know are good because I know their founders well from my work a few years back evaluating such programs for the U.S. government: 1) Partners in School Innovation, which puts recent top college graduates to work at the right hand of elementary- and middle-public-school principals, in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. 2) City Year, the nation’s finest youth service corps, which provides more than a million person-hours a year of free hard work to poor schools, community centers, and public housing developments. City Year was founded in Boston, but now also has chapters in 12 other cities.

Laurie Snyder, Copy Editor
See the line queuing up outside the University District Food Bank and it’s hard to walk by the donation drop-offs without at least throwing in a can of peas or jar of peanut butter. They need even more than that. A “low-kill” pet shelter for cats, dogs, and other critters, PAWS keeps its doors open largely by private donations. Toys for Tots and other gift programs match kids with toys, teens with clothes, and poor seniors with warm PJs—among other age-appropriate gifts. Microsoft calls its program the Giving Tree, Toys ‘R’ Us runs a similar program for the public.

JoAnne Spencer, Production Assistant
Project Gutenberg’s goal is to make books, historical documents, and other materials from the public domain freely available in easily accessible digital form. Their collection includes more than 10,000 plain-text items from Jane Austen to Zane Grey. Oxfam America is “dedicated to creating lasting solutions to hunger, poverty, and social injustice through long-term partnerships with poor communities around the world.”

Mark Alan Stamaty, Illustrator
Seeds of Peace brings together Palestinian and Israeli young people in an effort to develop empathy, understanding, and friendships toward the goal of peace. Doctors Without Borders are professionals who don’t need to go to some of the most troubled places in the world giving medical help to people who truly need it, but they do it out of (I would say) saintly, heart-driven conviction.

Jodi Sternoff, Associate Publisher
The Sierra Club helps preserve wildlands, save endangered and threatened wildlife, and protect the environment.

June Thomas, Copy Chief
Heifer Project International helps people in poverty around the world (including within the United States) move toward self-reliance by giving them livestock appropriate to their location (goats in the Dominican Republic, sheep in Bolivia, chickens in Cameroon, etc.) and training them to care for and work with the animals. This year I gave chicks to Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force fights discrimination against same-sex couples in immigration law. At a time when anti-immigration sentiment is rising, their work seems all the more important.

Eliza Truitt, Associate Editor
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation: Not only do they sponsor research on a disease that’s close to my heart, but they raise money in a way that I love, though athletic endeavors like Race for the Cure.

Rob Walker, Contributor
I don’t feel comfortable endorsing a favorite cause or causes; every year I pick two or three or four charitable organizations and give about two-thirds of my contributions to ones that operate nationally or internationally (abortion rights, human rights, etc.), and the other third to a local one (aiding the homeless, for instance). This year, on the theory that most people are thinking globally, I plan to do all my giving locally. I do feel comfortable encouraging others to at least keep this in mind.

Ted Widmer, Contributor
The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial do great work promoting human rights around the world, calling attention to writers and activists through their annual awards. They also promote mentoring in the inner city through a youth fellows program.

Emily Yoffe, Contributor
EngenderHealth provides a full range of programs for family planning, maternal care, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in the world’s poorest countries. Conservation International seeks to protect endangered species and places by making such preservation economically rewarding to local populations.