Groups' wish lists reveal needs

For years, the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy has created a holiday wish list for hundreds of nonprofits across the state, with the hope that some of the agencies' many needs could be fulfilled during the holiday season.

A look through the list at the council's website at www.ctphilanthropy.org shows great needs, including locally - everything from a 15-seat handicap accessible van (that's under the category of BIG WISH) for the Alliance for Living in New London to new flooring for the Madonna Place in Norwich (also a BIG WISH).

Of course, there are many wishes that range from gift cards for the holidays to volunteers needed. But glancing through the online list, what's very apparent is the tremendous need out there by this state's nonprofits, which do good deeds each day.

Laurie Allen, the communications manager for the Hartford-based statewide council for philanthrophy, says the wish list goes back many years. It started, she says, in 1989. Of course, back then it wasn't online. Over the years, there has always been a need, and more charitable organizations around the state asked to be on it. The council doesn't make many demands to get onto the list. If there's a need, there's a way to get that need onto the holiday wish list. This year's list represents 242 nonprofits.

Allen says the holiday wish list is designed to raise awareness of philanthropy in Connecticut - and to encourage a spirit of giving. The list includes the needs of many, from children and families to adults.

Allen points out the holiday wish list is actually part of the yearlong Ways to Share database, which allows online users to search agencies by name, by town or by an interest area (elderly, or health related or substance abuse, for instance).

The idea behind this easy-to-use database, says Allen, is to encourage online visitors to make a charitable gift, whether it's of their time, or their money, or goods to help out a nonprofit.

Over the years, she says, the searchable database has become a popular go-to place for individuals, companies and others. "We have clubs, church groups, families - a lot of people use it, and say they want to give back at Christmastime," says Allen.

The holiday wish list portion of the database goes online just before Thanksgiving, says Allen. But the main site is up all year, she says, "because people can use it at any time, see what kinds of things there are to do."

Through the end of December, more than 1,000 had visited the holiday wish list. There's an important link on the wish list page, as well, for additional volunteer opportunities. Once you click on the "Volunteer Connecticut" link, it takes you to another dropdown menu where you can find opportunities to volunteer by town or city.

Allen says the wish list is a sort of good-works-in-progress. As more organizations have needs more are added. Of the 242 nonprofits participating this year, 15 are from New London County; 14 are from Windham County. Nonprofits from all eight counties in the state participate, with the largest groups coming from New Haven and Hartford counties, says Allen.

Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.

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