THE BLOG
11/26/2013 12:55 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

Get in the Holiday Spirit on #GivingTuesday

The holidays seem to come earlier and earlier every year. This time around, Black Friday won't come on Friday at all -- it begins at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day. There's been a lot of talk in the media about this, claiming it's a travesty that corporations are forcing workers to leave their families to stock shelves and manage crowds. I'd argue that the real travesty isn't the fact that many people will be forced to leave the holiday table to go to work, though. The real travesty is that many will jump at the opportunity to work extra hours because they are unable to make ends meet every month, let alone buy small presents for their children this holiday season. That's the plight of the working poor -- the nearly 10.5 million Americans who are employed full or part-time but still struggle to provide the basic necessities for their families.

These families are among the most invisible during the holiday season. Even during this time, when people are often most generous, the poor often find themselves forgotten, desperate for a few extra hours of work, hoping they can keep the heat on and that January won't find them on the street. It's easy to understand that those in poverty need concrete things such as money for the heat bill or a hot meal, and this support is an absolutely crucial contribution for a family in need. However, true stability requires more comprehensive attention. Of course, no one person can be expected to provide that -- but nonprofits can.

That's the spirit behind #GivingTuesday. It's the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday; this year it falls on December 3. It's a day for us to remember those struggling to keep the rent paid and make it a happy holiday for their family and to support nonprofits who give them the services they need to escape poverty throughout the year. For some people, it means helping them get housing -- often for the first time in their lives. For others it means connecting them to healthcare so they can get and stay well. Still others need to train for and get a job. The needs vary but the solution does not -- support for agencies that meet people where they're at, helping them climb out of poverty one step at a time. #GivingTuesday is a great opportunity for all of us to do that.

It's easy to support local nonprofits through #GivingTuesday if you are so inclined. Visit givingtuesday.org and find a cause that moves you. You can review reports on how effective each nonprofit is and support them at a level you're comfortable with. You can also choose to volunteer through the site and learn how to participate in the #GivingTuesday promotional campaign through social media.

We each have a long list of things to be thankful for -- each and every one of us. So let's remind ourselves of those whose list is much shorter and of the fact that we're able to change that by helping to ending poverty once and for all, one gift at a time.

To view Heartland Alliance's #GivingTuesday gift catalog, click here or visit us on Facebook, Twitter (@heartlandhelps) and YouTube (HeartlandAlliance).