End 2015 and start 2016 on a generous note

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We can all agree that 2015 has been memorable for one reason or another. With only a few hours left of 2015, we wanted to reflect on the past, present, and look toward the future.

For the past six years, we at Central Florida Top 5 have been extraordinarily humbled to partner with and support many local area charities and non-profit organizations. Many of them you will see listed below. We encourage you to support your local community in whatever way you can; some have money to spare, some have resources or even a little bit of time. Any and all help is needed and appreciated.

If you have done your part in 2015, good on you! Our friends at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida share with us their Top 5 Year End Charitable Giving Tax Tips:

  1. Double-check eligibility. You’ll only receive a deduction for organizations that are qualified to receive deductible donations.
  2. Do your research. To make sure your giving is as efficient, ethical, and effective as possible, check up on charities.
  3. Keep records. Get a receipt for all monetary donations, not just for contributions of $250 or more.
  4. You can supercharge the tax benefits of your generosity by donating appreciated stock or property rather than cash.
  5. Don’t miss the deadline. Your 2015 year-end gift needs to be postmarked by December 31 or made online by 11:59pm.
Remember to check with a tax professional first. Everyone’s tax reporting is different, and a professional may have more tips and pointers for you. 

Have you ever heard of the website CharityNavigator.org? CN are a charity all their own based in the United States. They help giving people of all kinds (like you!) find and support great charities and organizations by rating them with an overall score and 5-star system. Their evaluations take into account Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency, and will also eventually factor in Results Reporting. Charities they grade include public, tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) charities who need support from individuals and file an IRS Form 990. It’s also worth mentioning, Charity Navigator has a fantastic section featuring Tips For Giving In Times Of Crisis.

Guidestar is another nonprofit, providing up-to-date data and is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.

While double and sometimes tripling your donation at the end of the year is always a great thing, charitable organizations and non-profits need your help year-round to keep their doors and hearts open to those who need their services. Below are a small few of the MANY great local and national organizations we like and have supported over the last six years. Some have even personally helped our Top 5 Team and our families. (In alphabetical order);

Local Charities:

A Gift For Teaching: We are Central Florida’s primary provider of FREE school supplies to teachers for their students in need. With a gift of just $50, we can provide a classroom with supplies for every child.  Even better, any gift made in December will be DOUBLED, thanks to the generosity of several local foundations; The Galloway Foundation, the Mary Palmer Family Foundation, Harriett’s Charitable Trust, and The Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation, Inc. Donations doubled before midnight December 31st!

A Gift For Music: Using a combination of after school, in-school, weekend and summer programming, AGFM has one of the most comprehensive string music education programs in the state of Florida, tuition-free. A Gift For Music faculty members work with elementary students in six Title 1, low-income schools, teaching them the basics of playing a string instrument while empowering them to explore their creativity, grow their self-confidence and embrace teamwork. Donations also doubled before midnight December 31st!

Albin Polasek Museum, Sculpture Gardens and Capen House: The Polasek is a 501(c)3 public charity whose budget is funded by donations, admissions and memberships. Your contribution is a meaningful investment in an important piece of history, community and natural beauty. You can support The Polasek with a tax-deductible donation in one of the following areas: Grant Match, General Operating Support, Preservation and Conservation, Gardens, Exhibitions and/or education. Click here to support!

Bike/Walk Central Florida: Promotes walkable and bikeable communities through raising public awareness and advocating for safe, active transportation, and recreation by educating walkers, cyclists, motorists and transit riders about Florida’s road laws, their rights, responsibilities, and courteous behaviors, supporting transportation corridor planning and design using Complete Streets principles, encouraging the development and maintenance of trails throughout Florida and promoting a built environment that supports physical, environmental and economic health, provides for safe transportation choices, and encourages interaction among citizens of all ages, incomes and abilities. Donate here.

Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum: The mission of the Friends of Casa Feliz – to protect, operate and maintain the integrity of the Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum and its collections; to educate the public on the life and legacy of noted architect James Gamble Rogers II; and to engage the public through education and advocacy for the purpose of preserving and promoting the community’s rich architectural, historic and cultural heritage – is timelier now than it ever has been.  As a historic home museum, Casa Feliz stands as a beacon to historic preservation in Central Florida. We celebrate the legacy of architect Gamble Rogers (1901-1990), designer of Casa Feliz, now a home museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Donate here.

Central Florida Community Arts: CFCArts exists to enrich our community’s quality of life by making the arts accessible and affordable for all. They provide an inclusive and welcoming creative platform where individuals can connect by joining an artistic family, perform for audiences across the socioeconomic spectrum, and use their talents to serve the community. Shine on, CFArts! Donate here!

Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida: Say goodbye to 2015 with a final act of kindness and compassion. There is no better way to end one year and begin another than by making a gift that can change lives. Before the clock strikes midnight, make an easy online donation.

Cocktails & Chemo: The Cocktails and Chemo Foundation’s mission is to create a support network for the often forgotten caregivers of cancer patients by providing one-of-a-kind care packages. The Foundation is focused on making the caregivers feel loved, special and most importantly… not alone. Thanks to the generosity of Xander Blue 8 in Dr. Phillips, C & C hosted a Stay Glam event where 18 caregivers got to relax a little and were pampered for a few hours. I was one of them. Please help them help local caregivers by supporting them with whatever you’ve got here.

Compassionate Hands and Hearts Breast Cancer Outreach: With a mission to extend their hands and hearts to support those needing help by improving the quality of life for them and their families, CHHBCO has provided financial and in-kind services to more than 200 patients in the Central Florida area. 100% of their donations go directly to local breast cancer patients and their families. My family was one of them, and we will be forever grateful to founder Vanessa Echols and her volunteers! Extend a heart and hand to donate here.

Crealdé School of Art: For the Louvre of Loos! Making a donation to Crealdé will help this 40 year old school in Winter Park build new bathrooms! So far they have received $7,925 from 31 generous donors, and are very close to reaching their $10,000 goal. Help them make their renovation goal by clicking here.

Enzian Theater: Serving 110,000 annually with over 1,100 events, including 5 film festivals, community collaborations, and free public programs, Enzian Theater’s big wish is to expand to three screens. Having already updated the theater itself with new seating, carpeting and more, having two more screens will allow for more curated, educational programs for arts organizations, schools and social partners. With this expansion – a new kitchen! Click here to donate to the Enzian Forever Campaign.

Give Kids the World: Over 140,000 children have had their dream come true at Give Kids The World. No child in need has ever been turned away – and no child ever will. Give Kids The World is a place where families find joy, laughter, serenity, and a lifetime of memories. Through the tireless support of our volunteers, employees and generous partners, we dedicate each and every day to these special families. Donations of all kinds are welcomed year-round!

Harbor House of Central Florida: Harbor House empowers domestic abuse survivors to take control of their lives – rediscovering safety and self-esteem. Offering a 24-hour crisis hotline, shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, and other services to literally thousands of people. Harbor House seeks to eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing safety, shelter, empowerment, education and justice. Help Harbor House help neighbors in need here.

Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation: Founded in 2007 by Robin Maynard in memory of her mom, Libby’s Legacy provides comprehensive breast health care to the underserved Central Florida community through education, mammograms, follow up diagnostics and Hope Coaches on the journey from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Libby’s Legacy also helps stage IV breast cancer patients battling by granting wishes in order to create cherished memories with loved ones through the LIVE BIG program. Their annual events Scooters 4 Hooters and Ellen’s Walk With the Angels in the Spring are not to be missed! Click here to donate.

Mad Cow Theatre: This magical chance to be part of our first ever Cowathon and double the impact of your gift ends at midnight tonight! Please consider a gift to Mad Cow Theatre to help us start the new year off strong. There’s another wonderful year of outstanding plays ahead! Every donation received by midnight tonight will be 100% matched up to $50,000 thanks to a wonderful, anonymous donor. Click here to give!

Osceola Council on Aging: Created in 1971, the Osceola Council on Aging, Inc. is the largest social services organization in Osceola County, providing a wide array of services and programs to meet the needs of our community. Though the name implies services for just the elderly, our scope of services extend to families as well, helping during crisis to enable generations of residents to cope with challenges. Give the gift of independence here.

Orlando Science Center: OSC turned 60 in 2015! Parents, increasingly in households where all caregivers hold full time jobs, need a place for quality time with their children, to reinforce good educational habits. Your generous donation helps support programs like Orlando Science Center’s Science for All Fund, which provides scholarships for camps, field trips, and family memberships to those in our community facing financial need. Click here to donate.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida: Through the generosity of the community, Second Harvest are driven to close the gap of unmet need in Central Florida in a variety of effective ways. Their core program of distributing tens of millions of meals per year for the clients of more than 550 local nonprofit feeding programs continues to have a growing impact. Click here to Feed Hope Now. 96.9% of your donation goes directly to feeding people in our area.

National Charities:

American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network: On a personal note, I had to mention the American Cancer Society. This year has been a very tough one for my family personally, as well as for our Central Florida Top 5 family. The amount of support ACS has provided to my mom in the last year alone – at no cost – is immeasurable. Donation & volunteer information is here.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: IAVA provides valuable resources and empowers veterans to connect with one another, fostering a strong and lasting community. Through education, advocacy and community building, we strive to create a country which honors and supports veterans of all generations. They are the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. They don’t just support veterans, IAVA empowers them! Connect & donate here.

Sunshine Foundation: A Philadelphia Police Officer took out a personal loan and started the Sunshine Foundation to help dreams come true for young children. 37 years later, the Foundation has opened chapters in Central Florida (Davenport), Cocoa, and all across the United States! Their sole purpose is to answer the dreams of chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages three to eighteen, whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to financial strain that the child’s illness may cause. 80% of every dollar is applied to programs serving children. Help check off their National Waiting List here.

UNICEFUSA.org: Every donation will be matched – $2-for-$1 for a $1,525,000 match – to make TRIPLE the impact for children in need. Make your 100% tax-deductible gift now and it will help provide children with desperately needed water, food, and medical supplies. Of every dollar spent, 90.2 cents goes toward helping children. Triple your impact HERE.