Woog’s World: The ABCs of holiday giving — Part 1

‘Tis the season to be jolly. ‘Tis the season too to receive gifts. And, of course, to give them.

Here in Westport we buy tons o’ stuff for our kids, siblings, parents and other family members. We hand cash to our mail carrier and house cleaner, cookies to the elementary school teacher and bus driver, bottles to folks who helped us throughout the year.

But our giving should not stop there. This year has been, surprisingly, amazingly lucrative for anyone stashing money in places other than a savings account. Many Westporters are doing quite well, thank you. It’s incumbent on us to spread the wealth around.

Everyone has a favorite charity. The needs — around the country and the world — are endless. But this is a local column, so I’m concentrating on non-profits that do good works in our own backyard. There are a hundred ways I could have organized this. I picked one that seems as arbitrary as any: alphabetical, A to Z.

Of course, there is too much to say about those organizations to fit in just one column. So today I’ll cover half (A to M). Next week, I’ll list another half.

If your organization is not on the list, it’s not that it’s not worthy. The list of great groups is very, very long. I promise to create a similar column, with other ideas, next year. Fingers crossed that many of us will be as able to help then as we are now.

A: A Better Chance of Westport. For two decades, they’ve offered educational opportunities - and a home away from home - for promising, intellectually curious and active young men of color. They give back to Westport as much as they get. ABetterChanceofWestport.org.

B: Beechwood Arts & Innovation. The brainchild of pianist Frederic Chiu and artist Jeanine Esposito, this “intimate, innovative and immersive” series brings together a wide range of people who share talents, ideas and food. It’s part of our town’s arts heritage - but it only succeeds with our help. BeechwoodArts.org.

C: CLASP. Since 1978, CLASP has provided care, support and inspiration to men and women with autism and intellectual disabilities. They do it through group homes and other housing opportunities, proving that home is truly where the heart is. CLASPHomes.org.

D: Domestic Violence Crisis Center. The DVCC offers services and professional staff for anyone experiencing abuse in personal relationships. All services are free, confidential, multicultural and multilingual. DVCCCT.org.

E: Earthplace. For decades, Earthplace has educated Westporters about the natural world, through classes (including great after-school and summer programs), exhibits, and a 62-acre sanctuary. They’re a hidden gem, and in today’s environmentally dangerous world we need Earthplace now more than ever. Earthplace.org.

F: Food Rescue. An innovative, clever and spectacularly simple idea: Use an app to find out which grocery stores and restaurants have excess food, then click on to immediately pick up and deliver it to participating pantries and shelters. FoodRescue.us.

G is for “Green,” as in: Sustainable Westport. Their mission is to make Westport a Net Zero community by 2050. They’ll do it by helipng us reduce our energy, water and waste through economically viable and environmentally responsible methods. SustainableWestport.org.

H: Homes with Hope. For nearly 40 years they’ve helped Westporters and others facing homelessness and food insecurity with supportive housing, meals and food pantries. Best known for the Gillespie Center (around the corner from Tiffany), they run many other programs. And they do it all with great care and efficiency. Hwhct.org.

I: Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. Working locally and throughout the state, they empower refugees and immigrants to become self-sufficient, and integrated into their new communities. They’ve been most active recently helping resettle Afghan men, women and children. Irisct.org.

J: Jewish Senior Services. For more than 40 years, they’ve provided skilled nursing and senior care services to individuals and families. And, of course, you don’t have to be Jewish. JSeniors.org.

K: Kidz Give Back. Westport-based, and now national, they help children learn the power of giving to others. Youngsters collect stuffed animals for those who don’t have them - a simple gesture that goes a long way, for recipients and donors. KidzGiveBack.org.

L: Levitt Pavilion. Fifty-plus nights of free entertainment doesn’t come cheap. We may not think of the Levitt as a charitable organization, but it relies on donations to keep going. LevittPavilion.com.

M: Mercy Learning Center: A life-changing program in Bridgeport, Mercy Learning provides a range of literacy and life skills training to low-income women. The center hums with activity every day, with classes and programs in a compassionate, supportive environment. Many Westporters volunteer there, and know how important it is. MercyLearningCenter.org.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.