As the holiday season gets into full swing and your calendar is filling up with get-togethers with friends and family and epic shopping excursions — this is also a time of year to reflect on all that you are thankful for, and see if you have a little to share with those that are less fortunate.
While it may be tempting to do the easy thing and drop a few bucks in the one of the red kettles that will be popping up all around the city just about any minute now — complete with jolly-looking bell-ringers to lull you into obedient compliance — think twice before donating to this “charity.”
The Salvation Army has a long history of collecting donations through their very visible “bell ringers” campaign that goes all the way back to the early 1900s. With a quasi-military structure, this Christian denomination manages to mobilize over 25,000 volunteers in America alone for their worldwide campaign. Anyone living in Chicago knows that they are impossible to escape. They’re on every corner. Every. Corner. This is why my dad started calling them “The Salivating Army,” as they stand at every intersection with militaristic precision ringing Pavlovian bells, counting on your ingrained reaction year after year. Considered the 4th most popular charity, they count on this “feel good” factor and the knowledge that dropping some coinage into one of their kettles completes your holiday experience.
But clear the chimes from your ears and take a strong swig of your Starbucks latte to clear your head – for they are no friends of the LGBTQ community! There have been stories of services refused to homeless members of the community, and in a recent interview, a media-relations official for the organization implied that gays should be put to death. Their belief structure forbids the hiring of gay workers or volunteers, and a percentage of the money donated goes towards lobbying efforts that support an extreme right wing agenda. For some time now, activists have placed phony three dollar bills in the red kettles with messages asking the organization to end their policies of discrimination and support of extreme religious right policies.
Lucky for us, there are literally TONS of LGBTQ friendly organizations to donate to — many of them local. One of my favorites is The Night Ministry — a Chicago-based charity that services members of the community who are faced with poverty and homelessness. They have a history of being particularly sensitive to helping LGBTQ youth, many finding themselves homeless after coming out to unsupportive families. For their Annual Holiday Celebration, there are a variety of ways to give, and make the holiday special for those with little to celebrate. One simple option is to donate a “stocking” containing items such as CTA cards, lip balm, toiletries, breath mints, tooth brushes and other items. Complete details can be found online.
This is by no means the only charity on our radar. From local to national, there is a lot of good to be done. Consider making a contribution to a cause that’s close to your heart, no matter where that focus lies. Interested in helping LGBTQ kids get scholarships to amazing schools? Drop the Point Foundation a line. Want to make sure policies in DC start reflecting equality across the board? Then look no further than The Human Rights Campaign. Want to do more in your neighborhood? Consider helping out the homeless youth shelters, either in Humbolt Park or the Broadway Youth Center…now homeless itself. Clothing, food, monetary, or a donation of your time…a little goes a long way for those in need!
As a community, we a have a lot to be thankful for this year, and a lot to look forward to as well. Let’s share what we can, and in some small way, make this holiday season a little more meaningful for someone else.
For more info on homelessness and LGBTQ youth, click here.
Upcoming Event that Supports Broadway Youth Center
Subject to Change Presents: Shop ‘Til You Drop
A Benefit for Broadway Youth Center
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
9pm-2am / $5 Sug. /
The Burlington Bar / 3425 W Fullerton
View event details here
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Valency was born in San Francisco to hippie parents, but is a Chicago girl through and through. Ten years of Catholic school helped her develop a finely-tuned bullshit detector, as well as a love of all sorts of Catholic kitsch. Valency isn't fond of labels. She is, however, fond of embracing her many paradoxes, and walking the fine lines between religion and politics, with an eye turned toward postmodern religion, feminist theology, and challenging patriarchy from inside religious institutions. She lives on the northside with her two daughters and two female cats, and is always looking for more ways increase the estrogen in her household.