by Nik Wojcik


The holidays give us a chance to be our best selves to lend some love to our fellow man and woman. When so many people need help, how do you choose one person or group over another? Can you still be charitable if you yourself are living check-to-check? Can you trust the organizations? We’ve done some research and offer you the following sampling of accountable and transparent local charities and make some suggestions for people on tight budgets.

Monument Crisis Center
Fifteen years ago, the Monument Crisis Center opened its small food pantry and served 84 hungry families right away. They now serve 15,000 households annually, with up to 120 families on each day in food. They have expanded their operation to offer adult education, homeless support and a myriad of additional referrals and services to help local youth and seniors.
According to their website:
$25 will feed a family of five for one week
$50 provides textbooks, dictionaries and other educational resources
$100 will fund lunch for 120 seniors through the Senior Moments Program
$500 buys 25 sleeping bags crucial to of our homeless population during cold temperatures
$1000 enables MCC to transport students to and from their Youth Summer Camp Program
They also organize hosted food drives and accept food donation boxes and birthday bags.
Monument Crisis Center is located at 1990 Market Street in Concord and can be reached by phone at 925-825-7751 or through their website at

Meals on Wheels Diablo Region
This organization has some solid name recognition after 50 years of service, but many are not aware that the scope of their services. Meals on Wheels delivers food to local seniors, and they also offer fall prevention education, minor home improvements, volunteers to keep our elders company, Care Managers for assessment and advocacy, and provide workshops to promote longevity, including nutrition and Tai Chi classes.
According to their website, the MOW can provide seniors with “a home-delivered meal each day for an entire year for the same cost as one day in the hospital.” They state that over 60 percent of their senior clients “are functionally impaired or live alone, without the support of family or friends” and that 40 percent of those same seniors live on less than $15,000 a year.
They look to the community to help vulnerable seniors by way of donation or volunteering. They will happily accept any amount.
Maybe you have an old clunker in your driveway. MOW has teamed up with Able Auto Charity Donation Corporation where they will gladly take any vehicle regardless of age or condition. Vehicle donations can be arranged by calling (877) 977-9577.
Meals on Wheels Diablo Region is located at 1300 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek and can be reached by phone at 925-937-8311 or through their website at

The Gift of Hope After Fire
The Camp Fire in Butte County destroyed nearly 12,000 homes and resulted in approximately 50,000 displaced people, many of whom are sheltering in tents. Under the threat of flash floods, mudslides and a dismal shortage of vacant shelters, our neighbors can use every little bit of help you can give. We suggest you donate through one of the several Camp Fire relief funds set up and facilitated by Golden Valley Bank where 100 percent of your donations will stay local.

Giving While Broke
Even the most cash-strapped among us have opportunities to give what feels like unnoticeable amounts. Checkout charities and bell ringers don’t judge if you can only hand out a buck at a time. Collectively, those bucks add up to big money. Forbes Magazine reported in 2015 that three out of four people have donated to various charities by tacking on minimal amounts to their grocery totals. Engage for Good, a corporate fundraising consultant, estimated that the top 73 checkout charity campaigns raised $441 million in the U.S. in 2016.

Care Packages or Blessing Bags
If you want to give directly (in the literal sense) and make a huge difference in somebody else’s life, instead of money, hand one of our homeless neighbors a small care package.
The basics are simple: put needed items inside a waterproof, non-breakable container and hand it to someone in need. A large freezer bag or reusable water bottle, both of which will come in handy for those on the streets or in shelters, and fill it with items like dry socks, a toothbrush and paste, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, granola bars, Chapstick, gloves and instant hand warmers, baby wipes, toilet paper, gift cards for coffee or food, and so on. These “Blessing Bags” really are a blessing for those most in need.

We hope you’ll take this little guide as a jumping off point to do a good deed. Before donating to any organization, you can check for its reputation at
We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope you will remember that sometimes giving is the best of gifts.