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What Gives

Look around to discover easy yet unusual donation ideas

Charity may begin at home, but it shouldn’t always end in your closet. These days, charitable organizations welcome much more than gently worn clothes. So before giving the shirt off your back, take stock in these not-so-customary in-kind donations. You may be surprised by what and how much you have to give.

Electronics make powerful connections 
Not sure what to do with that old cell phone? You can donate it to any number of organizations who will give it new life. Your phone could be used to purchase prepaid calling cards that enable active-duty military members and veterans to reach out to loved ones, or be recycled to buy a new phone for a health care provider working in one of the world’s most remote locations.

Your unused iPods can also go to a memorable cause—helping patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia reconnect with the world around them. Music & Memory partners with long-term care facilities to bring personalized music into the lives of the elderly through digital music technology.

Your harvest fights hunger 
If you cultivate more than you can eat, share the bounty. connects backyard gardeners to more than 7,000 local food pantries in 50 states, which, in turn, distribute excess produce to area needy families. There’s even a donor app (iPhone and Android) to help the charitable organization achieve its core mission: No food left behind.

Make a visible difference 
Share your lustrous locks with a child suffering from long-term medical hair loss or a patient with hair loss due to cancer or other treatments. Organizations such as Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love accept hair donations to make free wigs and other hair prosthetics—and restore self-esteem and confidence.

Your donation of used prescription glasses can help someone in need thrive at school, work and home. According to the World Health Organization, some 157 million people around the world have vision problems that eyeglasses could easily correct.

A perfect escape
Help U.S. military at home and abroad pass the time—and heal old wounds—with donated books. Whether recovering from trauma, reaching personal goals, dealing with separation or reading bedtime stories via webcam, our soldiers, veterans and military families give rave reviews to Operation Paperback. Check out how easy it is to collect and ship books—and to inspire others to do the same.

Uniquely you
Your energy, skill set and enthusiasm are the greatest gifts you can give to your community. To find out how your time and effort can lead to major improvements in the lives of others, search for opportunities of interest close to you.

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Going above and beyond

Got miles? Make them go the distance through various charitable causes. Consider a donation to provide round-trip airline tickets to service members undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center. Or transfer airline miles to Make a Wish to help travel dreams come true for kids and their families. Most major airlines also have loyalty programs that allow customers to donate accumulated frequent flyer miles to charity.