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Commentary By Chuck Bean: 'Imagine It's You' In Need

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During this holiday season, commentator and executive director of The Nonprofit Roundtable, Chuck Bean, suggests it's time to "imagine" ourselves making a difference:

These days many things seem beyond our control: North Korea, Wikileaks, partisan bickering. It's hard to imagine we can make a difference. In a time when we have seen our home values take a beating, the value of lending a hand remains strong. Sure, we've had a challenging year, but we know a lot of folks who have it worse.

Imagine it's you.

Imagine you're standing in a longer-than-usual line at the food pantry and when you get to the front, they're out of food because so many people need it.

Imagine you're laid off and need retraining, and the job programs are all full.

Imagine you are number 100 on the waiting list for the preschool program for your child.

All of us are served by nonprofits every day: Girls Scouts, Red Cross...feeding our spirits like Sitar Arts Center or meeting basic needs at Mission of Love in Prince George's.

All around our region, nonprofits give a chance to someone in a tough situation. They move a family from desperation to stability.

For example, Doorways for Women and Families -- an Arlington nonprofit focused on ending homelessness and domestic violence -- just told me about a woman and her 15-month-old son that came through their Family Home door. With Doorways' help, mother and son are this week moving out of the shelter, signing a lease, and celebrating this holiday season safely in their own apartment.

Safe Shores, the DC Children's Advocacy Center, makes sure children who have experienced abuse find a safe place to recover, which could be especially hard in the midst of the holiday fanfare.

Housing counselors at the Latino Economic Development Corporation work long hours in their Wheaton office to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. With their help, families have a much better chance to get unresponsive lenders to respond and stay in their homes.

The good news? Investments in Safe Shores and LEDC can literally last a lifetime, as they lead children and families out of the hardest time in their lives.

The bad news? For these and many other nonprofits this year, there's not enough to go around. At Doorways, for the mother and toddler served, another nine families seeking help had to be turned away. With more funds, Doorways could serve those families as well. For many nonprofits, there is no more room at the inn.

Now, imagine yourself helping that family.

Volunteer? Yes. Donate food and supplies? Yes. Give money? Yes.

Contributions equate to counseling for the abused child, a food basket for the hungry family, tools for someone seeking a job.

If you'd like a fun way to find some of the region's best small nonprofits, I recommend the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

If you want to help our neighbors get the basics this holiday season -- food, clothing, shelter -- join me in contributing to the Neighbors in Need Fund at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. The Fund helps organizations across the region give help to thousands of families -- our neighbors.

Imagine it's you helping.

Imagine it's you making a difference.

What do you think? Join The Conversation and contribute to the Commentary Forum.

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