At Thanksgiving, this column recognizes “Turkeys of the Year” in the Washington region with appropriate disdain and derision.
For the current holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, whatever — let’s instead pick “Angels of the Year” for applause and gratitude.
This selection of nonprofits is admittedly tiny and arbitrary. I lack space to do justice to the hundreds of organizations in our area that help the needy, comfort the afflicted or otherwise serve society.It seems like a fitting way to honor the spirit of the season.
Instead, I’ve chosen a few whose work seems timely or intriguing:
●Mary’s Center. This District-based group and others stepped up to assist thousands of young immigrants who suddenly began arriving in our region in the summer after fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
Although most of the youths had relatives with whom to stay, they urgently needed medical care, legal advice and, in many cases, psychological therapy because of the traumas they had experienced.
“Emergency mental health was the big issue,” Maria Gomez, president of the center, said. “We literally found kids who were not able to speak — kids 15, 16, 17 years old.”
The center’s usual focus is operating two medical clinics in the District and two in suburban Maryland that serve mostly Latino immigrants. To deal with the newcomers, it scrambled to find extra volunteers. It also borrowed money to help pay for $600,000 worth of immunizations, lab work and other health services.
Other local groups that pitched in to help the young immigrants includedAyuda, CARECEN , La Clinica del Pueblo, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington , and Northern Virginia Family Service .
All deserve credit for responding to the crisis. As of late September, more than 8,000 young immigrants had showed up in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
●Doorways for Women and Families and Second Chance Employment Services. In a year when the Ray Rice scandal reminded us of the sufferings of battered women, these two groups helped women master their finances and get jobs so they could leave their abusers.
Arlington-based Doorways provided financial literacy training and employment counseling to 80 women this year.
“In a lot of cases, clients have had their identity stolen, or the abusive partner has run up a lot of debt in their name,” Caroline Jones, executive director, said. “We definitely see that if people don’t have a clear economic pathway out of abuse, they go back.”
District-based Second Chance outfits abused women with new clothing and gives them training and other assistance. It successfully placed clients this year in companies including Booz Allen, Pepco and Verizon.
Founder Ludy Green said battered and trafficked women often are too emotionally fragile to find work without help.
“When you’re that weak, you need someone to help you fill out the forms, to go to the Web site, to prepare a résumé, prepare you for interviews,” Green said.
●Red Wiggler Community Farm. Named for an eco-friendly type of worm, the 12-acre farm in northern Montgomery County employs 16 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
They grow arugula, carrots, squash and other produce for paying customers and more than 300 people with developmental disabilities living in area group homes.
“Typically, people with . . . disabilities are seen as needing our help,” founder Woody Woodroof said. “Our program gives them the opportunity to give back, and we compensate them.”
●Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. This innovativepublication and Web site helps would-be philanthropists identify small, local nonprofits to which to donate.
The catalogue uses a review committee of 120 volunteers to vet the charities and assure donors that their contributions will be put to good use. It provides helpful descriptions of more than 300 community-based charities in four categories: education, nature, culture and human services.
Last year it helped the nonprofits raise about $3 million and hopes to do better in 2014.
Now is a perfect time to mention the catalogue, as contributions to nonprofits soar in the last week of the year to take advantage of the tax break for charitable giving.
“You’d be astonished at how much giving occurs in the last few days of the year,” Barbara Harman, president and editor, said.
So if the season has you feeling charitable, any of the angels above could be a worthy recipient. Or the catalogue can help you find another.