Helping the Helpers

4 ways to benefit others during this crisis

By Norris Burkes
June 2020

Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers, often quoted his mother who offered advice during his childhood about scary events on the news.

“Look for the helpers,” she said. “You will always find people who are helping.”

Today, the news couldn’t be scarier because those helpers are in trouble.

Thankfully, some of us are in a position to assist. We are the retired or those remaining in full-time work. This means our government stimulus check is likely lying on the credenza or in our bank.

“Uh oh,” you say. “The chaplain is gonna pass the hat.”

Maybe, but I prefer to think I can assuage the guilt we share. Yes, I actually feel some guilt about cashing the check. Our income hasn’t changed, and since we can’t travel or dine out, our accounts have grown.

Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded….” That simply means that if we are blessed with talents, wealth and knowledge, then we are expected to benefit others.

If you’re wondering how to benefit others with that stimulus check you may not need, allow me to suggest four donation tiers.

The first place to donate is to family and friends. Consider helping an out-of-work child pay her utility bill. Or help your unemployed neighbor with a Costco run.

The next tier of donations might involve increasing your local contributions to the essential frontline social services like food banks and homeless shelters. This is where the majority of my check will go.

Use the internet to find a local charity. My favorite is Runnin’ for Rhett, which inspired me to run marathons and pulled my grandsons off the couch.

The third tier involves finding reputable worldwide charities on the internet using the Charity Navigator at For example, on this site, you’ll be heartened to discover that Save the Children is still doing stellar work. And Matthew 25 Ministries is busy responding to Tennessee tornadoes, as well as hunger in Appalachia. The list is deep and wide, but find one—now.

Finally, consider putting aside 25 percent of your check to give to charities that may be in danger of extinction. These are nonprofits that aren’t doing the headline-grabbing work of directly combating the COVID-19 crisis. Yet they still need our help. These are the churches, women’s shelters and animal-rescue organizations.

Two charities that have my attention are the Chispa Project and my employer, Hospice of the Foothills. Like many hospice organizations, Hospice of the Foothills is funded by thrift shops. With those shops shut down, its budget is greatly suffering. (Habitat for Humanity is hurting for similar reasons.)

Also at risk is the Chispa Project that my daughter, Sara, founded to establish libraries in Honduras. Like many small charities, Chispa is appealing for emergency help with payroll, rent and the car payment for the vehicle used to transport books.

Because of the quarantine, Sara and her Honduran employees are unable to conduct teacher training, transport books and establish libraries. Employees must hibernate with at-home work, hoping to make it long enough to finish their libraries once schools open again.

So for now, I will send my remaining dollars to the Chipsa Project at—but I’m a bit partial to the founder.

Write to me and tell me where you gave or where you see the need.

Norris Burkes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit


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