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San Francisco, California; Cleveland, Ohio
Who they are: Blankies, stuffed animals, children’s books, you name it — Project Night Night provides creature comforts for the youngest victims of homelessness. Focusing on children under five, PNN creates Night Night packages designed to help those who can’t articulate their concerns overcome the anxiety, emotional and mental stress that comes with home displacement. The project has a second benefit as well: In addition to offering children much-needed care packages, the program also prevents gently used toys from finding their way into area landfills.
New York City
Who they are: Get ’em while they’re young. That’s the mission behind Harlem Children’s Zone. Operating a cradle to college education program, HCZ provides support starting from free, nine-week pre-birth parenting workshops and ending with college scholarships, post-college internship help and career support. Starting from a one-block project in the 1990s, the organization is now available to parents within a 100-block radius of Central Harlem and offers comprehensive tutoring, social services, healthcare support, community-building programs, after school programs, legal guidance, financial advice, domestic crisis resolution, personal counseling, obesity awareness and support, summer programs, food pantries, mental health therapy, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, truancy prevention initiatives, job skills workshops for teens and adults and academic advising. As for how effective the program is, see for yourself.
How to Help: Online donations are accepted, but you can also organize a book drive in your community to help build HCZ’s library, volunteer or convince your company to offer HCZ students a paid summer internship.
Who they are: Each year more than 4 million newborns around the world die because they lack basic necessities like clean water, healthy food and vaccinations. One in five kids in the US currently lives in poverty. With programs in more than 120 countries, including right here, Save the Children focuses on providing long-term hunger relief, education, literacy, nutrition, basic hygiene and health programs to those who need it most. Save the Children wins a spot on our list not only because of the programs it runs but also because of how efficiently the organization operates. Ninety percent of all funding goes directly to those the organization serves.
How to Help: Donors can sponsor a child for as little as $28 a month and in return will receive letters from the recipient letting them know how their funds are making an impact. You can also make a one-time donation, purchase a donate-able gift from their online catalogue, organize your own fundraiser, shop through GiveClicks.com, or donate stocks or airline rewards points.
Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Who they are: You’ve got stuff; they need school supplies. Connecting the two is the simple mission behind Cradles to Crayons. While C2C doesn’t operate any outlandish or particularly unique programs, it earns a spot on our list because of how efficiently it carries out its duties. Operating with little overhead, the organization has earned a four-star rating for financial health and fiscal effectiveness from the watchdog group, Charity Navigator. That means your donations go to putting school supplies in the hands of needy youngsters and not to superfluous projects.
Gastonia, North Carolina
Who they are: It’s rare that volunteers get to see how their personal contributions make a difference. Not so with Warm Up America. Mobilizing community sewing circles across the country, WUA encourages volunteers to crochet or knit their own 7” by 9” rectangles and mail them to their local chapters. Sections are then sewn together to create handmade afghans to be distributed to daycare centers, children’s hospitals, women’s shelters, the American Red Cross, and AIDS and homeless facilities across the country. Don’t know how to knit or crochet? WUA can set you up with a local group to teach you how.
Who they are: No time, no money, no problem. As one of the few ways busy parents can support international relief efforts without forking over half their bank account, The Child Health Site allows armchair philanthropists to help a worthy cause with the click of a mouse. For every visitor who clicks the site’s online Child Healthcare button, advertisers and site sponsors will make a small donation to organizations that provide Vitamin A and oral rehydration therapy for poverty-stricken children in Haiti. Those who want to do some extra credit can make contributions to world hunger, animal rescue, literacy, rainforest and breast cancer support organizations by clicking on buttons for affiliate sites. Don’t fret about the site taking a little off the top — 100 percent of all sponsor donations go directly to charity.
How to Help: Shop through fair-trade partner stores, sign any of the organization’s online petitions or simply spread the word to friends and family.
Who they are: All children are adoptable regardless of their physical or mental challenges. Dedicated to finding children once deemed “unadoptable” permanent homes, this organization works specifically with children with physical, mental and emotional difficulties and parents who are willing to take on such challenges. In addition to simply connecting needy kids with loving parents, the organization provides strong support systems to help families reach emotional and financial stability along the way.
Who they are: What do Susan Sarandon, David Beckham, Orlando Bloom and Shakira all have in common? They’ve joined in the fight to help children around the world. As ambassadors for UNICEF — the UN’s children’s task force that currently holds posts in 190 countries worldwide — celebrities and other volunteers join the fight against poverty, AIDS, hunger and disease. While the organization provides services for children of all ages, it maintains a strong focus on the under-3 demographic, providing strong nutrition and clean water programs for kids as well as pregnancy support, nutrition education and HIV-prevention programs for their parents. Two thirds of neonatal and young child deaths — over 6 million deaths every year — are preventable. Half a million women die in pregnancy each year, most during delivery or in the first few days thereafter. To combat these statistics, UNICEF sets its goals high. The organization estimates that it can save literally millions of lives with enough support.
Who they are: One of the most world-renowned international adoption programs, this organization has placed nearly 7,000 children from 28 nations around the world. In addition to connecting disabled, orphaned, displaced and minority children with loving homes, the organization offers a full range of social services, as well as on-site programs in orphanages across the globe.
Who they are: Two hundred and thirty women have overcome substance abuse, 1,300 families are out of poverty and 1,992 babies were delivered safely, thanks to this organization. Hailed by The New York Times as “the best kept secret in San Francisco,” this nonprofit provides housing help, prenatal education programs, parenting and child development support, financial education classes, domestic violence and substance abuse help and emergency support to families in or on the brink of homelessness. More than 3,000 families use the organization’s services each year.
Who they are: Recognized as a four-star organization by Charity Navigator, this Big Apple-based nonprofit provides free pediatric care to the estimated one million homeless children across the nation. Providing physical and psychological care to victims of natural disaster and rural and urban impoverished communities, the organization has provided 2 million free patient visits in 15 states across the nation.
Who they are: Part nonprofit, part government agency, this network of 16 prenatal facilities throughout New York state is specifically designed to help undocumented, HIV-positive, incarcerated, homeless, substance-using and uninsured or underinsured mothers. Services focus on everything, from helping soon-to-be moms quit smoking to dealing with post-partum depression to raising awareness about the latest product recalls.
How to Help: Contact any of the sites listed to ask about donation and volunteer opportunities.
13. Operation Shower
Who they are: Support deployed troops by helping their left-behind wives prepare for a family in their husbands’ absence. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has sent baby shower supplies to more than 250 families stationed around the world. Though it’s not a replacement for bringing our soldiers home, the boxes provide much-needed supplies to the tiniest troop supporters.
How to Help: Sponsor a baby shower or send a little cash over.
14. Newborns In Need
Who they are: Cradles, clothes and cuddly things of all sorts are welcome at this North Carolina-based nonprofit, which sends “cuddle kits” to sick and needy newborn babies throughout the US. Providing baby necessities, support to families of premature children and bereavement services, the organization is especially in need of blankets, fleeces, sewing supplies, diapers and fabric. Of course, a little cash never hurts either.
15. March of Dimes
Who they are: Since 1938, the March of Dimes has been one of the largest and most active advocates for moms-to-be and their babies. One of the driving forces behind the move to eradicate polio, the March of Dimes has maintained its good name by helping over 200 businesses become more mom-friendly, lobbying for better perinatal and prenatal care for expectant mothers and providing more than $20 million in research grants for understanding and preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
Who they are: In the battle between hardworking families and overpriced health insurance, children are frequently the victims. This organization caters exclusively to New York residents and provides affordable care to children under 19 who are not eligible for Medicare and their families. It also offers prenatal support for uninsured or underinsured pregnant women. To help patients pay for health care, the organization provides discounts based on income and assets to the more than one million patients it helps annually through its five hospital partners and numerous community healthcare centers.
How to Help: Contact your local chapter for info on volunteering.
17. Water For People
Who they are: According to the United Nations, 4 million babies worldwide lose their lives within the first year, mostly due to preventable causes. To provide babies and families with the most basic of necessities, Water For People is partnering with Johnson’s Baby to put clean water and sanitation systems into developing countries. Every day, nearly 6,000 people, the vast majority of which are children, die from water-related illnesses. To help the fight, Water For People has active programs in 12 countries.
Who they are: Parenting classes, mental health therapy for kids, clinical interventions… you name and it and this northwestern nonprofit does it. Serving approximately 175 children throughout the Portland area, Children’s Relief focuses on helping parents and their young ones heal from trauma. CRN is one of the only agencies in the country focused exclusively on children ages 5 and under. It offers therapeutic classrooms, parenting mentor programs, parent-child psychotherapy training, art and music therapy workshops and home visits to families working both inside and outside of the foster-care program.
Who they are: Pump for preemies right here. Operating like a blood bank for breast milk, Mother’s Milk Bank accepts milk donations from expecting moms looking to support their babies’ health. According to MMB, fewer than half of moms who deliver a baby prematurely are able to provide their babies with breast milk. Those who donate undergo a strict multi-step screening process, then have their milk monitored and pasteurized to kill all bacteria. Milk is then dispersed to local hospitals to feed babies who can’t get breast milk any other way.
Who they are: Did you know that the high fever experienced by some women with the flu increases the risk of the birth defect spina bifida? That’s the kind of useful info NHMHBC is trying to spread. Founded in 1981, this nonprofit works to eliminate health disparities, educate moms and their children on health matters, and promote child and prenatal safety. The organization currently reaches an estimated 10 million health care professionals, parents and policymakers through partnerships with 100 state, local and national organizations. Chances are, if your doctor is up on the latest research in prenatal health, you have these guys to thank.
How to Help: Become an NHMHBC member.
21. Blossom Birth
Who they are: Navigating the world of doulas and birth plans can be overwhelming. Blossom Birth is here to help. Offering classes ranging from hypnobirthing to mom and baby yoga, the organization also offers birthing tub rentals, lactation consultations and hosts guest lecturers who speak on pre and post-natal health topics. Blossom offers some scholarships for moms who can’t afford classes and serves as a one-stop shop for parents looking for local providers who offer child health and education services.
Who they are: Diapers are a new family’s number one largest daily expense. Unfortunately for those under the poverty line, diapers aren’t covered by food stamps. Help a Mother Out focuses exclusively on providing diapers to 18 sites throughout the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, with additional chapters in Washington state and Arizona. So far, Help a Mother Out has distributed over 425,000 diapers to those in need.
23. Embrace Global
Who they are: 20 million low-weight and premature babies are born each year. One of the biggest problems these children face is hypothermia, simply because their bodies aren’t developed enough to stay warm. To combat the shocking premature infant death statistics, Embrace Global is in the final stages of creating a portable infant warmer that costs less than 1 percent of a traditional incubator. Designed almost like a baby sleeping bag, the reusable warmers contain a tiny electric heater that keeps children warm, even when outside temperatures drop. The units are currently in clinical testing and will be distributed starting in India soon.
How to Help: Join the effort to raise $1.5 million.
24. Nourish America
Who they are: This organization serves the hungry, the sick, the malnourished and the depressed of all ages, but offers strong support for pregnant mothers and children under 3. Maintaining a presence in all 50 states, Nourish America offers free prenatal nutrition classes to low-income moms and nourishing meals to children in schools and daycare programs.
How to Help: Kick over some cash.
Who they are: The organization formerly known as the Christian Children’s Fund currently focuses on helping 15.2 million children and family members in 31 countries. Making a 12- to 15-year commitment in each community it serves, ChildFund provides labor and funding support to local organizations that offer prenatal education programs, conduct research and fight against infant illnesses, and provide financial and community support to new families. The organization offers education and community support for older kids in developing nations as well.
26. GOOD+ Foundation
Who they are: When Jessica Seinfeld couldn’t find a place to donate all her gently used baby clothing and gear to those who need it most, she took action. Nearly 10 years later, her nonprofit has donated more than 4.2 million items to thousands of children through partnerships with social service organizations. In addition to providing used goods, the organization also coordinates financial literacy courses, organizes food drives for those in poverty and operates free workshops on various child and prenatal health topics.
Nevada, Northern California
Who they are: Gracie is a 2 1/2-year-old child suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disease. Her family is $9,000 short of being able to provide the physical and occupational therapy she needs. That’s where the For Kids Foundation steps in. Offering financial assistance to Nevada and California families with specific unmet needs in the areas of medical, dental, mental health or education, For Kids strives to fill in the miscellaneous cracks social services and other nonprofits leave behind. Past projects have included funding chemo treatments for a three-year-old boy suffering from juvenile xanthogranuloma and leg braces for a two-year-old with hypotonia and possible cerebral palsy.
How to Help: Empty your pockets.
Who they are: Finding out your child has a physical or cognitive disability can be devastating. Variety is here to provide support services and financial assistance to parents of disabled children in 13 countries around the world. Focusing on covering medical needs insurance won’t, Variety can be a life-saving organization for families struggling to keep their children healthy. Programs include hosting holiday parties, field trips, sports activities, providing wheelchairs and walkers worldwide, providing transportation to families in need, and purchasing medical equipment and supplies.
29. Mother To Baby
Who they are: You’ve got questions, they’ve got answers — and they won’t charge a dime to give them to you. Fathers and pregnant and breastfeeding moms in California who are concerned about the impact on children of vaccines, alcohol and drug exposure, vitamins, pesticides, chemicals, disease or occupational hazards can call 1-800-532-3749 to speak with a healthcare professional. Calls are free and handled by experts in a non-judgmental manner.
How to Help: Donate.
30. Room to Grow
Boston, New York City
Who they are: The first three years are the most critical, and this nonprofit wants to ensure all families get off on the right foot. Low-income parents start meeting with Room to Grow counselors every three months, from just before the baby is born to age three. During one-on-one appointments, parents receive age-appropriate supplies, information on their child’s developmental stages and resources to help cope in case of an accident or unforeseen circumstance. Parents walk away better prepared to serve the needs of the child and armed with information on what they can expect in the years to come.
Who they are: Teens and young adults who are scared or embarrassed to talk to their local doctors about pregnancy, birth control and prenatal options can call 1-800-395-4357 to get help. Calls are free and confidential and help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or those in need can e-mail or live chat with an OptionLine representative. The center focuses on providing free info on pregnancy, adoption, birth control and sexually-transmitted infections, as well as referrals to medical professionals in your area.
How to Help: E-mail OptionLine to ask about donations and volunteering.
32. World Connect
Who they are: Working hand in hand with Peace Corps volunteers in some of the poorest nations on earth, World Connect focuses exclusively on improving the health and wellbeing of third-world mothers and children. Current projects include initiatives to install solar panels and clean running water to maternity ward health centers in Mali, free nutrition and infant health classes for women in El Salvador, and bringing labor and delivery doctors to the Dominican Republic. Since 2005, more than 300 projects have been funded through World Connect.
How to Help: Donate.
Who they are: Every few years, the world is shocked by a story about a baby abandoned in a dumpster, alley or somewhere equally unsafe. Dedicated to creating “safe-haven laws” — legislation that allows mothers to leave their babies in designated locations like hospitals where they will be cared for and medically treated if necessary — Save Abandoned Babies is pushing to provide safe establishments and adoption options for panicked moms. The organization has drafted its own safe haven law and needs your help to spread the world and push it through.
How to Help: Make a donation.
34. Save Babies
Who they are: Currently over 4 million babies are born every year in the United States. Even though every newborn born in the country receives a newborn screening test, how many diseases are screened for is determined by the state a child is born in. To eliminate newborn screening discrepancies, Save Babies provides a free information portal outlining screening resources available throughout the nation. The organization does not provide screenings themselves, but does have a limited number of free newborn-screening packets expectant parents can show their physicians to add extra tests to their normal screening at no charge. Mothers walk away knowing that they’ve taken the best possible early-detection steps with their babies.
How to Help: Send a check.
Who they are: Shriner’s has its work cut out for itself. With 22 hospitals serving thousands of kids nationwide, this healthcare nonprofit focuses on helping kids under 18 who suffer from orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Patients are treated regardless of their family’s ability to pay, one of the many reasons healthcare pros from across the world gather here to give to a good cause and bone up on the latest research and procedures.
Who they are: The treatment of a world-class hospital, the feel of a playground. Dedicated to serving the mental and emotional needs and physical ailments of its youngest patients, this pediatric medical, dental and nutrition center makes our list because of its high-quality care, coupled with its delightful atmosphere. Serviced by professionals from the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Children’s Hospital also maintains a strong focus on minimizing fear. Initiatives include adding a Girl Scout troop to the hospital’s recreational therapy unit and allowing ladies to earn badges using assistive technology, a smart suite designed to train families to use assistive devices and an early intervention program designed for infants ages 36 months and below, not to mention a wide array of toys, books and video games, all at patients’ disposals. Don’t take our word for it. To get a better idea of the magic Children’s Hospital performs on a daily basis, check out its success stories.
How to Help: Give time.
Who they are: Impacting approximately 100,000 kids and families each year, Children’s Home provides child abuse prevention programs, foster care parent training, in-home prenatal counseling sessions for expectant moms, family relationship workshops for those with children ages 5 and below, labor and delivery counseling with a trained doula, and support groups for victims of neglect, abandonment and sexual abuse. The organization currently operates 14 branches throughout the state with efforts focusing on low-income, at-risk, foster care homes and families with a history of child abuse.
Who they are: Ten sites, one battle and a never-ending barrage of problems. LIFT focuses on eliminating poverty among all populations, which includes providing support services for expectant mothers. Among its long list of services, which range from job-hunting support to providing healthcare referrals, LIFT helps new parents find childcare support subsidies, file their taxes to include the Child Tax Credit and identify mom-friendly jobs that offer flexible hours. As for the results? They speak for themselves.
Who they are: In a 2009 speech, President Barack Obama stated, “I’m heartbroken that any child in America is homeless. Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.” Mere minutes outside of the White House, more than 7,000 children live without a home. HCPP is here to change that by providing emergency shelter, one-on-one housing counsel, developmentally appropriate toys and activities designed to reduce the traumatic effects of homelessness on children and healthy snacks to kids from infancy on up. The organization has a strong focus on play therapy in response to Harvard Medical Research, which found that almost half of school-age, homeless children have emotional problems before entering school and are four times as likely to have developmental delays and learning disabilities.
Who they are: Nationally, more than 500,000 children ages 5 and below experience homelessness each year. We can change that. Horizons for Homeless Children provides early childhood education programs and recreational spaces in homeless shelters across the state. Programs focus on getting kids ready for school, providing much-needed social skills training and offering a space where they can simply be kids by playing, exercising, creating art projects and using their creativity and imaginations. The organization currently serves more than 2,200 kids each week in Massachussets and has also assisted in establishing programs in 75 additional centers nationwide.
Who they are: Dolly Parton may not be best known for her brains, but the country music star is taking great strides to promote early childhood literacy. Families in qualified geographic areas who enroll in the Imagination Library receive one brand new book for free in the mail every month (each tailored to the developmental challenges of that age) until their children turn 5. The last book — Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come — helps prepare kids to start school and enter a lifelong love of reading.
Who they are: From AIDS/HIV awareness programs to higher education assistance, this Christian nonprofit has its fingers in a lot of pies. It makes our list because of its robust Child Survival Program, which provides prenatal care to mothers in the world’s poorest nations and ensures that those moms have qualified birthing attendants during delivery. Once children are born, they receive nutritional supplements, ongoing healthcare and immunizations to increase their chances of survival, while mothers and caregivers receive nutritional and parenting skills training, as well as medical attention. More than $.80 from every dollar goes directly to the communities Compassion International serves.
Who they are: Kyra Oliver lost her son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2002. She’s made it her mission to make sure it doesn’t happen again. After founding The Hayes Foundation — named after her son — Oliver launched the This Side Up project, aimed at letting all parents, grandparents, babysitters and caregivers know that babies are safest from the risk of SIDS when placed on their backs at nap or bed time. Distributing This Side Up onesies to babies throughout Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Alaska, California and Florida, the Foundation aims at expanding into all 50 states.
Who they are: Preeclampsia, the disorder formerly known as toxemia, is a pregnancy-induced hypertension that kills 76,000 mothers and half a million babies worldwide each year. Affecting 5 to 8 percent of pregnant women right here in the US, the disorder has both immediate and long-term maternal health consequences. The Preeclampsia Foundation is currently the only patient-advocacy group dedicated to this issue. Launching a campaign across North America to raise awareness, fund research and provide support to those who have been affected, the organization also serves as an information portal for women who think they might be victims.
46. Early Head Start
Who they are: One of the most well-known early childhood education programs, Early Head Start has been helping young’uns from birth to age three since 1994. To help children reach certain milestones, the organization offers home visits for families with newborns, comprehensive medical and mental health services, childcare services and parent-child educational activities. To help parents do their job better, the organization also coordinates adult education programs, transportation, literacy and job skills training, safe housing, emergency loans, disability support and an online database of lessons anyone can access at any time.
How to Help: Contact Early Head Start to discuss donating and/or volunteering.
Who they are: Learning about the world is hard enough on a baby. Doing it with visual impairment is an even bigger challenge. Providing support services to families with visually impaired and blind children since 1949, the Blind Babies Foundation provides child and parent education information, medical visits, visual and developmental assessments and community support. Each year more than 540 families are helped at absolutely no cost, thanks to the efforts of this group.
Who they are: The waiting list for Families Can’t Wait is over 100 families long. You can help by donating to an organization that offers financial assistance and community support for families with disabled children. Families Can’t Wait funds are designed to fill in the gaps that insurance leaves behind and can be used to purchase architectural modifications, childcare, therapy and medical care and equipment to support children with extra needs. The organization also offers group activities in the Dane County area to help isolated kids make friends, play a little, and give mom and dad a much-needed break.
How to Help: Empty your pockets.
49. Angel’s Place
Who they are: For low-income parents, breaking the cycle of poverty is damn near impossible. For those willing to put in the time and effort to go back to school, Angel’s Place offers no-cost early childhood education, parenting classes, career exploration, tutoring, counseling and referrals, and assistance with practical needs such as food, clothing and nursery supplies. To qualify, parents must be single, attending school full time, meet the income restrictions and have children ages 5 or below. Those who enroll receive free year-round childcare and assistance with everything from job training to nutrition information.
50. Get PUMPed
Who they are: In September of 2009, one of Amanda Pacheco’s friends passed away, leaving behind a 6-week-old baby with no access to breast milk. In response, Pacheco started mobilizing mothers both locally and nationally. In the first month alone, almost 2,000 ounces of milk were collected from destinations including New York, North Carolina and Oregon. Now an official nonprofit, the organization has collected more than 11,000 ounces of milk to be distributed to premature babies and mothers who need it.