Thank you guys so much for doing this again. It took me a while this year to come up with exactly which charities I wanted to do, but I think I've finally got a combination that I am happy with.
This year, I started with a simple idea of wanting to do something for cats - I remembered how much Austin adored his cat, and after having spent the entire break so far taking full advantage of the fuzzy therapy provided by my sister's four rescued cats, I wanted to do something to help stray animals. This was also an approach that felt right to me, as animal welfare is a cause that I've cared strongly about ever since I started working with the Hong Kong Dog Rescue back in high school.
$500: PAWS Chicago (http://www.pawschicago.org/)
PAWS Chicago is Chicago's largest No Kill humane organization, working to build a No Kill community as well as to end the overpopulation of homeless animals and improve overall animal welfare. In 2013, 91% of its budget was spent on programs. PAWS Chicago admitted 5976 cats and dogs, and adopted out 5872 of them.
$500: Greater Chicago Food Depository (http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/)
The Greater Chicago Food Depository provides food for hungry people and works to end hunger in the community. It operates across Cook County through 650 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs, older adult programs and other innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 67 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat. This is the equivalent of 154,000 meals a day. In 2013, 93.3% of their resources went towards food bank operations. In addition, since this donation is made as a year-end donation before December 31st, it will be matched dollar-for-dollar, making it donation even more impactful.
I would like to suggest donating $1000 to The Point Foundation, the nation's largest scholarship fund for LGBTQ students.
The Point Foundation, the National LGBTQ Scholarship Fund, provides mentorship, leadership development, and community service training to exceptional lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. Each year, Point awards scholarships to a diverse group of promising students who have faced significant obstacles and often lack family support. In honor of Austin, contributing to the scholarship fund supports equal access to higher education and promotes acceptance for all persons.
I am so grateful to be a part of Austin's 12 days of Christmas. Helping to honor his memory in this way is very beautiful and meaningful.