10 More Noteworthy Nonprofits You’ve Never Heard Of

They’re out there competing for dollars and attention and making a big difference.

As the troops prepare to come back home we face the daunting task of absorbing their return. Housing, health care, jobs and schooling – not to mention how to treat PTSD which we now know plagues scads of combat units when settling into civilian life. It brings to mind non profits – the other army of good soldiers – with countless missions. The staffer and volunteers running these organizations deal with these hard  issues and so much more in aiding people daily while often relying on deeper souls than pockets.

Lagging behind in the economic recovery and tapping social networking opportunities like Facebook to garner desperately needed support, nonprofits deal in everyday drama that disrupts everyday lives. And some of our favorites are designed to motivate the nation’s youth to pitch in with incentives that go beyond community service credits at school.

The frigid winds of December bring even more disruption, upping the demand for shelter from the cold, provisions for soup kitchens, and support for those finding it challenging to get through holiday cheer emotionally unscathed. With all this in mind, here are ten nonprofits to put on your radar – ones covering urgent needs as well as going to bat for long range ideals.

San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention

Mural artist Susan Mack decks the halls of the Talk Line treatment center in the Haight where this agency’s approach is to stop the cycle of violence by treating the entire family. This resource which sets a national standard, treats the entire family to a holiday party every year while also packaging toys and necessities on the wish list. As a testament to director/attorney Katie Albright – daughter of former secretary of state Madeline – and the other staffers at this welcoming hub – the decorative murals are usually kept up the rest of the year or as long as possible to lift spirits.

Does art heal what is hurting these children? It’s all part of the entire package, one that relies on charitable gifts and volunteerism to break the cycle while teaching struggling families how to cope with stress, poverty, drugs and challenges that can put us over the edge.


Spark seeks to ignite global change by building a community of young, global citizens invested in changing inequality towards women throughout the world. The strategy – as described in its mission statement – is to cultivate a community of young professionals actively involved in women’s issues on a grassroots level and to educate through forums, volunteer opportunities and international delegation trips to countries where women and girls are prevented to lead the lives they deserve. What ignited Spark? In 2004 Maya Garcia read an article about Sanaa Abu Bhkeet, a young Palestinian runner who overcame great adversities  for the Olympics. She joined forces with the co-founders and in five years, raised over $350,000 for grassroots women organizations in Rwanda, Mexico, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and the U.S.

Peer Health Exchange

Since students living at or below the poverty line experience more than their share of serious health risks from teenage pregnancy to obesity, this agency recruits, selects and trains college student volunteers to go into high school classrooms and teach a comprehensive health curriculum that ranges from sexual health to substance abuse and nutrition. The key? PHE takes the cue from research showing teens process and absorb health info better when delivered by educators of a similar age. Workshops conducted by these volunteer “role models” help students practice skills such as effective communication, risk evaluation and prevention, setting limits and making important decisions in role-play scenarios that resemble difficult, real-life crises. Anyone who has had sex ed taught by a 60-something teacher can appreciate how teenagers feel less awkward discussing this stuff with peers.

Environmental Career Center

The Environmental Career Center with an active job board is considered one of the most experienced recruiting and resource firms for matching the public with green jobs in environmental, building and energy sectors. Seeking to connect leading employers with top candidates for a sustainable future, the staff boasts one of the largest environmental databases around containing 34,000 resumes and over 60,000 hungry visitors to its web site per month. The focus is on green building (LEED®), energy efficiency and environmental compliance, renewable energy and sustainable businesses. Its services cover PASE Corps (training and staffing program), contract staffing for its clients, recruitment/outsourcing and contingency searches (finding the best option for filling  mid-level management, sales and tech positions).

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Throwing out a line to bullied or stressed out teens, veterans and victims of holiday blues, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline networks with 132 crisis centers in the U.S., offering a 24-hour toll-free hotline to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Callers are routed to the nearest crisis center for immediate counseling and local mental health referrals. In addition, it provides preventative educational tools at an online library for schools in helping to train teachers and other employees to recognize kids in pain and how to treat them. The nonprofit recognizes suicide often effects an entire community so it takes the community approach to prevention.

Medical Teams International

The goal of Medical Teams International is to export international good will and services to aid people stricken by disaster, conflict and poverty through effective programs meeting guidelines of the global health community. Volunteers bring their expertise to Africa, East Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and the U.S. with cores set up to address community health issues (including HIV, child survival, water and sanitation and clinic construction and rehab), dental programs, disaster response, emergency medical services, medical services and training and medical supply distribution.

Trust for Public Land

Mapping land worth conserving nationwide, the Trust helps agencies and communities to set aside precious property as well as lending a hand in the design and development of parks and playgrounds. Posting their lively photos on Facebook to spur involvement, it’s all about open spaces for play, relaxation, good health and connection with nature. “Our goal is to ensure that every American has access to a park within a ten-minute walk from home,” says the agency, adding the need for more parks has never been greater. The group has set a $250,000 goal to meet that need for humans as well as their four legged friends.

Reading Partners

If you ask friends about their favorite nonprofits, chances are they will cite some type of literacy program such as Reading Partners, which strives for all the nation’s children to acquire the skills they need to reach full potential – and of course that involves becoming lifelong readers. Focusing on individualized instruction with measurable results, the group reaches out to children from low-income communities with fewer opportunities. Partnering with schools (hence the name), the agency offers one-on-one tutoring with a caring volunteer. Once enrolled, English-speaking students in grades K-5 who have fallen behind six months to two years in reading receive two 45-minute tutoring sessions a week. As educators know, reading is the gateway skill tied to succeeding in every subject in school.

Philly Friendship Circle: Friends for a Caring World

Pairing teen volunteers with special needs children, this caring organization based in Philadelphia schedules excellent activities from weekly play dates at home to structured weekend programs and holiday blow outs. Established a little over six years ago, the eye is on fun and recreation as well as building bridges of community spirit. Teen volunteers find personal satisfaction from giving and are trained by staff therapists to be friendly, giving and attentive to the children partaking in the programs that reach the Jewish community and beyond: Among them: Sunday Circle Respite Sessions to celebrate culture and customs; Sports and Cooking Circles; Sibling Support and Drop Off programs (kids dropped at Saturday Night Parties or Sunday Afternoon Carnivals).

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

It’s almost inconceivable that those who have fought to protect homelands have no place to call home, yet the Veteran’s Administration estimates one-third of the homeless population are veterans – 107,000 homeless on any given night. Most are male and single and come from urban areas and suffer from mental illness, alcohol/substance abuse or co-occurring disorders. Nearly half served during the Vietnam era while others served in Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. Among them, 56 percent are said to be African American or Hispanic and reasons for being on the street are linked to poverty, lack of support networks and overcrowded or substandard housing. How does the NCHV help? The most comprehensive source for restoring lives, it is governed by a 17-member board and serves as the resource and tech assistance center for a national network of community based service providers and local, state and federal agencies. The group also provides emergency and supportive housing, food, health services,job training, placement assistance, legal aid and case management support for hundreds of thousands of homeless vets each year.

Kids Against Hunger

Founded in 1999, the organization’s mission is to reduce the number of hungry children in the USA while feeding starving children throughout the world. This huge endeavor is done by packaging nutritious, vitamin-fortified, soy-rice casserole by volunteers at locations within the U.S. and Canada. The meals are distributed to over 60 countries through partnerships with humanitarian organizations worldwide. Volunteers boast packing over 48 million meals for children and their families in 2009 alone. Does the food get in the right hands? The organization does not look to governments to ensure people are getting fed.

“We rely on the expertise of trustworthy feeding partners whom we have long-standing relations with and whom we can count on for getting food safely to its destination,” they say.


Image: Ed Yourdon

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.