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12 Ways You Can Support Charities Without Donating Money

Regular readers might remember our post about helping penguins victimized by the Tauranga oil spill in New Zealand by knitting tiny sweaters. While we had a lot of interest in the article and the cause, it was only up a short time before a representative from the charity commented that they had received enough sweaters for all the needy penguins.

For all those flossers who still want to lend a hand, but don’t have the extra finances to donate cash to a worthy cause, there are plenty of others in need of your non-monetary support.

1. Little Hen Rescue

If you already bought all of your penguin sweater knitting supplies only to find out the birds were taken care of, don’t worry, other birds still need your help. The Little Hen Rescue is a UK charity dedicated to rescuing abandoned and abused chickens, many of which have lost their feathers due to stress and abuse. That’s where the need for chicken jumpers comes in. A pattern can be found on their site, along with the charity’s mailing address for your completed project.

Non-knitters can also get in on the fun with this one, as the group also provides a sewing pattern for fleece jumpers. No word yet on which one the hens prefer.

2. Leggings For Life



Leggings for Life is dedicated to helping deformed and paralyzed animals who are subject to ulcerations and infections from dragging their legs or walking in an adapted manner. As you may have guessed by their name, Leggings for Life helps these creatures by providing the animals with comfortable leggings that help prevent chaffing and rubbing.

The group, which helps a variety of different species, seems to aid creatures on a case by case basis, so patterns are presumably sent to volunteers as needed. They only maintain a small pool of volunteers at a time; right now they need a limited number of volunteers who are willing to ship their contributions out of the country. If you’d like to help, you can add the group on Facebook or email LeggingsForLife@att.net with the subject line “crocheter” or “sewer” and ask if they need any additional volunteers at this time.

3. The Snuggles Project

Most shelter animals are left in small cages with little warmth or comfort. The Snuggles Project works to give these animals security blankets that provide them with much needed comfort and warmth while the creatures wait to be adopted. Sewing, knitting, and crocheting patterns are available on their website, along with a list of shelters around the world that are accepting such donations.

4. Coats For Cubs



If you aren’t good at crafting, but happen to have some of your grandmother’s old fur coats, you can still help animals in need by donating the coats to a local wildlife rehabilitation center. Fur provides abandoned animals with a warm, safe place to curl up for a nap. For many young animals, it can help provide them the comfort they will be missing without their mother’s warmth. The Humane Society of the United States has a long list of wildlife rehabilitation centers that accept such donations on behalf of their animals. If you wish to donate to a local wildlife center not on their list, The Humane Society recommends calling in advance to ensure they accept such donations.

5. Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation

For those who prefer to help mankind, Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation (FoPRR) is a great place to start. This group is dedicated to helping shelters, clinics and other groups on the Pine Ridge Reservation of Sioux Native Americans. FoPRR is always looking for knitted, crocheted, and other sewn items for the people on the reservation; they are in particular need of clothing, toys, and duffel bags for the foster care children there.

6. Afghans for Afghans


It’s sadly ironic that many people of Afghanistan are in desperate need of the warmth provided by the very blankets that bear their name, but it’s the truth. Afghans for Afghans provides blankets and warm clothing to the people of Afghanistan who have been victimized by the turmoil of their country. Patterns, a mailing address, and more details can be found at their site.

7. The Painted Turtle



While it may sound like a group dedicated to painting animals, The Painted Turtle is actually a camp and family care center dedicated to children with debilitating conditions. If you want to help, the group is always accepting quilts and turtle pillows to make the kids feel more comfortable while away from home and to help them remember their time at camp. Details for quilt and afghan sizes can be found on their site, along with a pattern for the turtle pillows.

8. Chemocaps

If you’ve known someone who has gone through chemotherapy, you know just how upsetting the hair loss caused by the treatment can be. Chemocaps provides patients with hand-knitted head covers that not only provide warmth and comfort, but also remind cancer victims that they are not alone in their fight. Patterns and mailing addresses can be found at the group’s website.

9. Stitches From the Heart



If your heart goes out to premature babies and their parents, you might want to offer your support to Stitches From the Heart. They provide premature babies with blankets, booties, clothing, and hats since the tiny survivors often lack appropriately sized clothing when they are approved to leave the hospital. Volunteers are asked to refrain from using wool yarn and to ensure all items are washable. Knitting and crocheting patterns can be found on the site, along with appropriate sizing based on the baby’s weight.

10. Project Linus

As the name implies, Project Linus provides needy children with security blankets. Whether a child suffers from disease, trauma, or other need, a warm, cuddly blanket can provide them with the physical and mental comfort that they desperately need. Patterns are available on the group’s main website, but if you can’t sew, crochet, or knit, many local chapters are happy to accept any donations of unused blanket-making materials you may have lying around.

11. Nike Reuse-a-Shoe


Even if your shoes are too smelly and worn out to donate to Goodwill, you can still drop off your old sneakers at a Nike Reuse-a-Shoe center so they can be broken down and used to create materials for public playgrounds and tennis courts. While they can’t accept shoes with metal parts, dress shoes, or sandals, it’s still a great way to get rid of your stinky old tennis shoes without further crowding your local landfill.

12. Locks of Love and Wigs for Kids

Getting a major haircut any time soon? If you’re taking off more than ten inches, have your hair cut off while in a pony tail or braid and donate the trimmings to Locks of Love or Wigs for Kids. Your hair will be used to make a wig for a child who is suffering from hair loss for any variety of medical reasons. As a bonus, many salons offer discounts if you are donating your hair; Wigs for Kids has a list of such salons for those interested.

Even More Ways to Help


Even if you don’t want to leave the comforting glow of your computer, you can still help a variety of charities. Search using SearchKindly and money will be donated on your behalf to create libraries for under-served schools. Play educational games on Free Rice and every question you answer correctly will result in ten grains of rice being donated to the United Nations World Food Programme. Shop with Good Shop and a percentage of your sale will be given to a charity of your choosing. Lastly, you can read public domain books out loud while recording your voice and donate the recordings to LibriVox, where they will be made available to the public as free audio books.

If you prefer to act a little closer to home, there are always people that will need your help no matter where you live. You can knit clothing or blankets for your local homeless shelter (or give them to the people on the streets directly). You can donate blood to your local Red Cross. Lastly, you can always donate your time to a local charity in your area.

There are tons of noble non-profits out there and we’ve only scratched the surface here. That being said, if any of you Flossers happen to know any other worthy causes that can benefit from non-monetary support, feel free to leave more details in the comments.

For all you altruistic readers who intend to help one or more of these great charities, thank you for your generosity. The world could certainly use more people like you.

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15 Amazing Kids Who Are Making The World a Better Place
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

From pint-sized activists to elementary school entrepreneurs, the digital world has been instrumental in giving a global platform to anyone who wants to make a difference—regardless of age. Need proof? Look no further than the 15 amazing kids highlighted here, each of whom is doing his or her part to make the world a better place.

1. DALIYAH MARIE ARANA

Daliyah Marie Arana
Haleema Smith Arana

Studies show that the typical American will read around five books per year. Well, 5-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana of Gainesville, Georgia, does that in a week. What's more impressive: She read more than 1000 books before she even entered kindergarten. Her love of reading became so prolific that it caught the attention of the Library of Congress, where she was invited to serve as Guest Librarian in January 2017.

“I want to inspire all the kids at my school to read more,” Arana tells Mental Floss. “I read to my 5-month-old baby brother, Demetrio, every day because I want him to learn to read before age 2!”

That same passion extends to her community, where Arana says, “I want to work with my mom to make my school the best group of readers in Georgia!” —Jay Serafino

2. GISELLE BAZOS

Gizelle Bazos
Courtesy of Ann Bazos

Nine-year-old Giselle Bazos has solved a problem that plagues kids her age: lost retainers. Her invention, the Retainer Container, prevents kids from losing their dental appliances while they eat. “I have a retainer that I lost a couple times,” Bazos tells Mental Floss. “I found it really hard, especially when you are eating, to keep it somewhere where it won’t get thrown away or broken.”

Her storage container can be worn on the wrist, so that a kid’s retainer never actually leaves their person. (Which is good news for parents, too, as it can cost as much as $600 to replace a lost retainer.) Bazos got to present her idea at the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in the summer of 2017. Though right now she’s more focused on being a regular fourth grader than manufacturing the device, we’ll be looking out for her next brilliant invention. —Shaunacy Ferro

3. ROBBIE BOND

Robbie Bond
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bond

This past April, the president issued two executive orders that hit close to home for 9-year-old Robbie Bond. They threatened the protected status of 27 national monuments, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Bond’s home state of Hawaii. He knew he had to do something, so with his family he decided to hit the road. Bond's mission is to visit each of the 27 vulnerable monuments while raising awareness of the issue among both kids and adults. He’s already well on his way to achieving that goal, and tracks his progress on his website, Kids Speak for Parks.

“I love when I visit schools and interact with my peers and they tell me about their experiences visiting national parks and monuments,” Bond tells Mental Floss. “At every National Monument I have visited, the community has welcomed me and people have taken the time to educate me about the uniqueness and significance of each monument.” —Michele Debczak

4. HENRY BURNER

Henry Burner
Sarah DeNike

When a school trading post project tasked fourth grader Henry Burner with bringing in something to sell to his classmates, he didn’t want to go the traditional baked goods route. Instead, Henry made and sold his own pinback buttons with the help of his mom’s button machine. The success of his creative project spawned an idea.

“I did so well at my trading post that when I got home I asked mom whether I could ‘make real money doing this,’” Burner tells Mental Floss. He began selling his buttons at farmers markets, but when the season ended and the markets began to close, he said, "My mom suggested e-commerce and that's when the business really took off!” 

Now as the founder of Buttonsmith, Inc., Burner—who was named as one of Forbes's notable 30 Under 30 in the retail and ecommerce industry—is creating jobs in his hometown of Carnation, Washington. With a patent pending on the design, his products are available both online and in Walmarts across the country. While Burner cites "selling more than $1 million gross in 2017, being in 1600 Walmarts, [and] being able to sell custom products on Amazon" as some of his biggest achievements, he's also very conscious about the kind of company he wants to run. He's proud of Buttonsmith's "products [being] 100 percent made in the USA, being a union shop, and creating 10 good jobs for our employees!” —JS

5. AMARIYANNA COPENY

Mari Copeny
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

For years, residents of Flint, Michigan have had to deal with a water supply known to contain dangerous levels of lead and other contaminants that irritate the skin. To make sure President Barack Obama was aware of the situation, 8-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny wrote a letter to the White House in March 2016. After not hearing back for months, Copeny’s mother, Loui Brezzell, got a call from Washington: The President was coming to Flint and wanted to meet Copeny.

Known as “Little Miss Flint” from her days in beauty pageants, Copeny became a lightning rod for the water crisis in her town. “When we found out the water was making us sick, I decided I wanted to stand up and give a voice to the kids in Flint that couldn’t stand up and speak for themselves,” she told Fortune.

Copeny—who has more than 21,000 Twitter followers—has since spearheaded a charity movement to donate 1000 school backpacks to area students. In November 2017, her tireless community efforts were recognized by Central Michigan University, which presented Copeny with a $25,000 scholarship to the school. —Alvin Ward

6. SOPHIE CRUZ

Sophie Cruz
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SOZE

Sophie Cruz has proven that you’re never too young to start caring about national issues, especially when your family’s fate hangs in the balance. Her story got global attention in 2015 when, at just 5 years old, she handed the Pope a letter and a hand-drawn illustration in hopes that he could help change U.S. immigration laws, which threaten to deport her parents, who are both undocumented immigrants. The illustration was of Cruz, her family, and the Pope joining hands, with “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color,” written in Spanish across it.

Her story continued at the Women’s March in January 2017, where she made a speech to the crowd in both English and Spanish, pleading with them to fight for immigrants around the country. “We are here together making a chain of love, to protect our families,” Cruz, who was just 6 at the time, told the massive crowd. “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.” Cruz's story has become a rallying cry for nonprofit organizations like Fighting for Families. —JS

7. ADDISYN GOSS

Addyison Goss
Courtesy Snuggle Sacks

Ten-year-old Addisyn Goss, of Fenton, Michigan, met her grandfather for the first time in 2015. He was very sick, with one leg amputated, and had been homeless for six years. “So many of his stories made me sad, and I wanted to help others that might be homeless,” Goss tells Mental Floss. With her family’s help, she bundled donated toiletries, clothes, snacks, and blankets into 50 individual bags she dubbed Snuggle Sacks, which they delivered to the homeless in Lansing and Flint. Soon they were giving out 50 each month; now it’s 500. Goss’s nonprofit has handed out 3200 survival kits so far.

“I like seeing how the Snuggle Sacks really help people,” she says. “We have met lots of very nice people, and see them over and over again. They tell us how happy they are to get a new pair of socks, or the gloves, and how it helps them stay warm and safer. That makes us feel good. And, my brother and sister help me every day, so we are very close now.” —Jennifer Pinkowski

8. RYAN HICKMAN

Ryan Hickman
Photo courtesy Damion Hickman

Ryan Hickman’s passion for the environment began early. When the 8-year-old was just a toddler, his father, Damion Hickman, would take him on trips to their local recycling center in Orange County, California. These outings inspired Ryan to launch his own recycling business, Ryan’s Recycling, with help from his community.

In just five years, Hickman has recycled nearly 300,000 cans and bottles. He has also raised more than $5000 for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a marine mammal rescue center, by selling company-branded T-shirts. “I love recycling because it helps keep trash from getting into the ocean near where we live and that helps the animals in the ocean,” Hickman tells Mental Floss. —Kirstin Fawcett

9., 10., AND 11. JACKSON, TRISTAN, AND VIOLET KELLEY

Tristan, Jackson, and Violet Kelley
Photo courtesy Heather Kelley

In the summer of 2009, the Kelley brothers—Jackson, then 10, and Tristan, almost 8—launched Backpacks for New Beginnings, a charity that provides backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids around the Boston area. “We wanted to create a charity where we could do more than donate money or toys," the brothers told Mental Floss by email. "We wanted it to be a charity for kids run by kids.”

They fundraise, shop for items—which also include warm clothes, toiletries, and other basics—manage around 30 volunteers, and coordinate deliveries themselves, donating more than 7500 backpacks in the past nine years. And they show no signs of stopping—especially now that their 7-year-old sister Violet has gotten involved.

Though Jackson is now a freshman in college, he still plans on staying involved from afar and during the summers, and hopes to found a new chapter wherever he ends up after graduation. In the meantime, 16-year-old Tristan is spearheading the effort at home, and Violet is preparing to take over the operation in the future. —SF

12. ROBBY NOVAK

Robby Novak

Navigate past YouTube’s sea of unboxing videos and famous cats and you’ll sometimes find someone worth your time—Robby Novak being a prime example. Since 2013, the 13-year-old has been posting videos as “Kid President,” featuring optimistic and enthusiastic addresses from his cardboard Oval Office that have promoted charitable causes, like urging people to donate clothes and meals to the needy. In other clips, he uses humor to make salient points about empathy. “Before you say something about the barbecue sauce on somebody else’s shirt, take a look at the barbecue sauce on your own shirt,” he says.

Novak’s high spirits are in contrast to his osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes his bones to be abnormally brittle and has prompted over 70 bone breaks in his life. Novak’s infectious energy has been viewed by—and inspired—millions, including Real President Barack Obama, who visited with Novak when he invited the performer to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Hunt in 2013. —AW

13. SUNSHINE OELFKE

Sunshine Oelfke
Photo courtesy Jackie Sue Oelfke

Most kids break open their piggy banks to buy games or toys, but 5-year-old Sunshine Oelfke found a more important way to use her savings. She started gathering up her own change after learning that a friend at school didn’t have enough money to buy milk. Sunshine’s mom, Jackie Oelfke, helped her fill a baggie with cash and take it to school, but they didn’t stop there. They decided to extend Sunshine’s good deed with a GoFundMe campaign that raised money for more kids who can’t afford milk. “I want all my friends to have milk and lunch,” Sunshine tells Mental Floss. “I want all my friends to be happy.” —MD

14. GITANJALI RAO

Gitanjali Rao
Discovery Education/Andy King

Gitanjali Rao, a seventh-grader from Colorado, won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was named "American's top young scientist." Her winning project? An inexpensive, portable, accurate device that tests lead contamination in drinking water and a smartphone app that analyzes the results, which she created after seeing news stories about lead in Flint, Michigan's water system. With her $25,000 prize, Rao hopes to fine-tune her invention—which she named Tethys, for the Greek goddess of fresh water—and ultimately help people make sure their water is clean. “I believe [Tethys] could have helped the people of Flint if they had it earlier,” Rao told The Denver Post. “My next step is to find out for sure.” —Kat Long

15. CARL SCHECKEL

Carl Scheckel
Photo courtesy William Scheckel

Carl Scheckel, 10, uses his love of comics to entertain soldiers and veterans. It all began when Carl (with help from his dad, William Scheckel, an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology) launched a website, Carl’s Comix, to post reviews of works and interviews with comic book creators. “One of my readers asked me if I would want to donate comics to veterans,” Scheckel tells Mental Floss. “I liked the idea and took 400 comics of my own and asked dealers, collectors, and creators I know if they would like to donate comics too. I raised 3500 comics!”

The Department of Veteran Affairs arranged for Scheckel's comics to be donated to a local veterans hospital and Army base, and thousands of additional donations poured in when news spread about his good deed. Scheckel plans to give a portion of these extra works to Maryland’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “I hope that when people get these comics, it reminds them of home and gives them something fun to do!” he says. —KF

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How You Can Help Pay the Heating Bills for a Family in Need
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The first week of 2018 brought a record-breaking cold snap to parts of the U.S. While some families tough out the weather from the comfort of their heated homes, others aren’t so fortunate. Each winter, many low-income households have to choose between keeping the heat on and buying groceries. This problem affects a range of people, but senior citizens and people living with disabilities are especially vulnerable this time of year. Thankfully, there are programs out there helping families stay warm.

For residents of Minnesota, there’s HeatShare, an emergency utility assistance service from the Salvation Army. The state sees some of the harshest winters in the country, with temperatures often plummeting below zero. The Salvation Army offers funds to pay for natural gas, oil, propane, and electricity to people who need it through their Minnesota operating centers.

“The program has provided more than $40 million worth of assistance to over 150,000 households since 1982,” the program page reads. “Annually, about 4700 households receive an average of $370 to keep their homes warm.”

About 40,000 households ask for help covering their heating bills each year, which is more than the program’s budget can handle. You can donate your own money to the cause directly through the Salvation Army’s website.

The Salvation Army isn’t the only organization helping people endure the cold. Sponsored by the Citizens Energy Corporation, Joe-4-Oil offers free heating oil in 16 states, including Maine, Alaska, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The program works with local fuel assistance agencies and heating oil providers to make deliveries of 100 gallons of oil per season directly to the homes of those who need it. You can assist the program by donating to the Citizens Programs Corporation through PayPal.

Looking for another way to make the winter months a little easier for families who are struggling? Here are some suggestions of items to donate.

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