Tahlequah Daily Press

December 6, 2013

Lending a helping hand

Christmas is a time of giving, and area nonprofits have lots to help

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — During the holiday season, many families choose to make donations of funds or items to charities to help the less fortunate, and many organizations in Cherokee County need support.

Among the more high-profile options in Cherokee County are Court Appointed Special Advocates, Help-In-Crisis, O Si Yo Men’s Shelter, Hope House, the Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity, and Humane Society of Cherokee County.

“The biggest thing a person can do for us is become a CASA volunteer,” said Jo Prout, CASA executive director. “That aside, we need monetary donations. More most of us, this is a time of year when families are together. For the children we champion, this can be a confusing or bewildering time. Our volunteers help children through court, get them out of foster care and back with their families more quickly.”

Many other charities need donations of items - some seemingly routine, but difficult to keep in supply on a limited budget.

“We could use just about anything, actually,” said Ed Thompson, director of the Project O Si Yo men’s shelter. “We need paper towels, shampoo, laundry detergent and any kind of men’s clothing.”

Laura Garner, director of Hope House – which shelters women, mothers and their children, and families – said her organization always gives receipts for donations and appreciates them all, “large or small.”

“We always need paper products and cleaning supplies,” she said. “But right now, we are in real need of some furniture items: chairs, bed frames, good quality mattresses, love seats. A lot of our families had to leave their belongings or put them in storage. We can use just about anything available in the average household.”

TAHFH is always in need of funds to build the next Habitat house. Linda Cheatham, executive director, said the next house is “number 21.”

“About 20 percent of the Cherokee County population lives below the poverty line, and most of them live in substandard housing,” Cheatham said. “Some people have to choose between food and a warm house, because they can’t afford both.”

Cheatham said the TAHFH Surplus Store accepts used furniture, renovation and construction surplus, quality used carpet, building supplies and other household items for resale to the public. Proceeds help fund the building of Habitat houses in Cherokee County.

By helping others, you can help yourself

Cherokee County boasts a number of worthy charities, most of which are listed in the Daily Press Fact Book every January, and the Newcomers Guide in August.

Most people make contributions to charities with which they are familiar. Anyone who is considering a new charity should research it carefully.

Responsible nonprofits will provide virtually any information requested - an address, phone number, registration number, board members, current IRS non-profit status and an annual report.

If giving online, make sure the charity uses encryption technology to frustrate hackers and check the organization’s privacy policy. Unsolicited email requests for donations are usually bogus. When you do donate, get a receipt.

Many options are available for those who wish to donate, from making angel tree purchases at Walmart, Reasor’s, Century 21 or Help in Crisis, to the Dress to Impress Clothing Drive running through Friday at Northeastern State University.

While helping others is the overriding goal of donations, donors can add the benefit of tax deduction. The IRS lists a few suggestions for those wishing to deduct their charitable contributions:

1. The organization must be qualified as tax-deductible. Donations to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates are not eligible.

2. Deductions must be itemized on Schedule A of From 1040.

3. Any benefits returned to the donor from the charity (prizes, services, tickets) must be deducted from the donation.

4. Clothing and household items must be in good condition to be deductible.

5. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are deducted at fair market value.

6. There must be a bank record, payroll deduction, or communication with the charity which states the name of the organization, date and amount of the donation.

7. Donations of $250 or more also need an acknowledgement from the charity that the contribution was received and whether any good or services were given in exchange for the gift. Non-cash donations of $500 or more require the donor to fill and attach IRS Form 8283.

8. Contributions of an item or items totaling $5,000 generally require a professional appraisal. Visit IRS.gov for more information.

YOU CAN HELP

For further information or to make donations: CASA, (918) 456-8788; Help-In- Crisis, (918) 456-0673; Project O Si Yo, (918) 453-2520; Hope House, (918) 456-4673; Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity, (918) 453-1332; and Humane Society of Cherokee County, (918) 457-7997.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com