Thanksgiving is more than just a big bird on the table, relatives on the sofa, and football on the TV. It’s also the season for giving – to each other, to our places of worship, to our community.
Once the James Island County Park’s Holiday Festival of Lights is on, so is the season for special worship services across faiths and food donations for those who need it. There are opportunities to volunteer, and ways to engage on social media. Even Mayor John Tecklenburg is getting into the spirit at James Island Outreach’s Community Thanksgiving Service on Sunday. He will be singing “Amazing Grace” against the backdrop of multiple choirs.
No matter what your interest, you can find a way to join in the community spirit. The state Secretary of State's office has made it easy to find out which charities use more of their donations to serve their clients by issuing his annual Angels and Scrooges list of organizations that either use their money wisely, or not.
For instance, the Lowcountry Food Bank uses almost 98 percent of their donations for food, with only 2 percent going to overhead. The organization notes on its website that one in four children go hungry in our community. It serves 10 coastal counties in the state and aims to distribute more than 24 million pounds of food each year.
Or the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, which provides the only sanctuary for gibbons in the United States. It ranks high on the angels list with 84 percent of its donations going toward services or to help other animal groups.
"We work very hard," said Shirley McGreal, founder. "We give so much money to other groups."
Just how effectively the league uses its funds has been borne out by Hurricane Matthew, which heavily damaged the league's Summerville sanctuary, where more than 30 rescued and unreleasable gibbons are housed in a network of large enclosures and runways. Most of the recovery work has been done by staff with huge helping hands from volunteers.
The sanctuary is one of the few in the world. Gibbons are critically endangered so the league works hand-in-hand with rescue operations in more than 30 countries, focusing on smaller efforts where the money given goes a long way, McGreal said. The league secures and releases grants, as well as encouraging other organizations to do the same.
If you want to volunteer, the Charleston Basket Brigade needs volunteers to deliver dinner to families in need. On Tuesday, it will give out Thanksgiving meals to 3,500 families in need, which is about 21,000 people. Routes have been planned, and drivers are needed to help deliver the turkey dinners that will feed five to six people. The meals will be ready to go starting at 7 a.m. at the Charleston Area Convention Center Exhibit Hall. Get there early to help.
On social media, #GivingTuesday will be celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as people are encouraged to donate to the charity of their choice. Last year, 700,000 people participated, donating $116 million worldwide. It's increasing in popularity since it follows Cyber Monday.
During the holiday season, Blackbaud estimates that charities will receive about 25 percent of their budget as people open their hearts and wallets. Surprisingly, they say that most donations will be given the last week of the year, with the most happening on Dec. 31.
With all this in mind, here’s a list of this year’s Angels and Scrooges. The Angels spent the highest percent of their donations on their services, the Scrooges, the least.
And check out our listing of Thanksgiving week events.
Aiken Performing Arts Group Inc., Aiken: 82.7percent
Dot's Kitchen of Westminster, Westminster: 85.4 percent
Free Medical Clinic of Darlington County, Darlington: 97.8 percent
Hope Inc., Rock Hill: 90.6 percent
HospiceCare of the Piedmont, Inc., Greenwood: 92.1 percent
International Primate Protection League: 83.9 percent
Lowcountry Food Bank Inc., Charleston: 97.7 percent
Pajama Program Inc., New York, NY: 92.0 percent
Speak for Animals, Greenville: 87.8 percent
Teen Angels, Little River: 91.2 percent
Caddy for a Cure, Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.: 34.1 percent
Center for American Homeless Veterans Inc., Falls Church, Va.: 27.3 percent
Committee for Missing and Abused Children Inc., Lawrenceville, Ga.: 10.8 percent
Law Enforcement Education Program, Troy, Mich.: 28.3 percent
National Cancer Assistance Foundation Inc., Daytona Beach, Fla.: 24.0 percent
Purple Heart Services Inc., Annandale, Va.: 18.8 percent
The New Hope Foundation Inc., Nashville, Tenn.: 27.9 percent
Veterans Relief Network Inc., Dyer, Ind.: 33.4 percent
McCall Development of Charleston LLC, Charleston: 1.1 percent
Palmetto’s Children Thrift Store, Columbia: 0.8 percent