How do you get involved with a charity? There are so many of them out there that there is no way a person can care about/contribute to/work for all of them, so most of us zero in on a few that are dear to us. But what's the appeal?

I've just done a short story for a mystery short story anthology which will benefit Toys for Tots. When the call went out for submissions, I liked the theme (*Dying in a Winter Wonderland*), but I also responded to that charity. Why? We know they do good work; the Marines know how to get a job done. Children are the focus, and everyone wants disadvantaged children to get noticed during the holidays. And there's a personal connection: my son did some work for the organization when he was in college, and I learned a bit about the organization and the results.

It may be that personal connection that singles out a charity from the herd. Many years ago when a relative of mine needed a lot of blood, people in our town went to the Red Cross who had never given blood before. It was for someone they knew, not a nameless stranger. Sometimes it's an immediate need, like a hurricane or 9-11, and people respond generously. It's hard to sustain that interest, though, and donations die out even though there's more need than the initial flood of aid and money meet.

It must be hard to run a charity these days: the scams, the tight economy, the glazed-over eyes and brains that result from overexposure. Just an opinion, but I say choose two or three charities that appeal to you and support them in every way you can. I suppose you can guess that one of my choices is Toys for Tots. You can order the book (which is a great Christmas present for the mystery reader in your life) for October delivery at You can also guess that you'll be hearing more about *Dying in a Winter Wonderland* on this blog in the weeks to come.

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