December is all about giving, which makes it a great time to consider a gift to a local charity. We’ve picked five local 501(c)3 charities that are doing great things in Plymouth. We also got professional advice from Pam Ricker, certified public accountant at Ricker Accounting, to make tax time a breeze. (Consider that last one our gift to you.)
Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners is most visible during the annual Sleep Out, which raises funds and awareness about homelessness, but this 34-year-old neighborhood organization offers multiple family services. The group helps families with employment, child care, transportation and food assistance programs.
“Interfaith Outreach helps people right here in Plymouth move towards stability,” says Jill Kohler, co-development director. Special emphasis goes towards housing, a cornerstone to further progress for struggling families; 89 percent of revenue goes directly to helping families. This year, the bar’s been set at a lofty goal of more than $2 million, and pre-sleep out, there was quite a way to go towards that amount. Your gift will help them reach their goal. 1605 County Road 101 N.; 763.489.7500.
Swan Song No More
The Trumpeter Swan once populated the Northwest all the way to the East Coast , with estimated populations as high as 100,000 birds. This graceful creature was hunted to the brink of extinction in 1893, but is now recovering, thanks in part to the efforts of the Plymouth-based Trumpeter Swan Society, formed in 1968. There are now about 6,000 swans in the region. Plymouth is home to several nesting pairs, with 50 other pairs in neighboring counties. Madeleine Linck, Trumpeter Swan Society’s administrative assistant, adds that as soon as the freeze hits, it is the perfect time to see swans wintering along Minnesota’s rivers. Donations promote the welfare and protection of the Trumpeter Swan, and help restore this beautiful creature to a healthy population. 12615 County Road 9; 763.694.7851.
Recovery for Teens
Many Plymouth residents don’t know that one of the country’s largest youth substance abuse treatment centers is right in their backyard. This year, the Hazelden Center for Youth & Families is in the middle of a two-year $13 million capital campaign to expand its campus; so far, $10 million has been raised. Plans call for extending the available care for female patients, since young women who receive extended care have higher recovery success rates. Annual fund gifts support patient aid, akin to scholarships for low-income patients. (Last year’s contribution topped $7 million.) Why give to Hazelden? “Donors know their funds affect someone’s life,” says Jana Olslund, Hazelden’s vice president of the office of philanthropy. “Treatment can help save a life.”11505 36th Ave. N..; 763.509.3800.
Music to Our Ears
Music in Plymouth doesn’t just happen each July—it’s the result of hard work from the Plymouth Civic League’s dedicated all-volunteer team. Thanks to their unpaid efforts, there are no operating costs. Your donation goes directly to support this premier summer event for the entire community. The first-class music and fireworks display are entirely free to the public, so this popular event enjoys a diverse donor base. “Grass roots appeal and broad support gives the event the character it has,” says Mele Willis, member of Plymouth Civic League’s board of directors. “It’s heartwarming, and we have sustained it for 41 years.”
Homes for All
Homeward Bound was started in 1973 by families with disabled children, and this year marks the group’s 40th anniversary. Eighteen residential homes in the metro area serve children, teens and adults with severe and profound disabilities through the program, and there’s always a need for donations toward handicapped-accessible transportation and medical equipment. Funds also go to scholarships for individuals with the ability and desire to attend Camp Friendship or Camp Courage. “People with disabilities can be forgotten,” Homeward Bound’s Lori Merriam says. “When families are struck with challenges, we all need to be there to help support them.” 12805 Highway 55 Ste. 400; 763.525.3816.
It’s a good idea to contribute in December, because it gives you a tax deduction on the current year’s income tax. “It doesn’t have to be cash or check, you can also use your credit card,” CPA Pam Ricker says. “It’s a good way to lower your taxes this year.”
- Look at the organization that you’re giving to. Make sure it’s a valid 501(c)3, and find out what percentage of funds goes into program versus administrative costs like advertising and operations. “Make sure you know how the funds are being spent and what they are going to,” Ricker says.
- Make sure you get a receipt for your gift. If the total gift is less than $500, use tax form 1040 Schedule A. If the total gift is greater than $500, use tax form 82/83. If the total gift is greater than $5,000, you’ll need to have it appraised.
- Consider donating stock. Organizations might accept appreciated stock, and you can avoid paying tax on the gain.
- Keep track of non-cash contributions when you donate clothes, food or household goods by getting a receipt. “Remember,” Ricker says, “those contributions count, too.” Before you unwrap all those holiday gifts, go through your closets, clearing out unwanted items—you’ll make room for the new goodies and save yourself a little something for next year. Ricker and Associates, CPA, 12800 Industrial Park Blvd.; 763.553.9800; rickercpa.com