Are you and your family or friends looking for ways to pay it forward? Have you considered donating to those in need in your own community? Mainstream, aka national, charities tend to collect the lion’s share of private donations and attract the majority of volunteers, so smaller, local, or lesser-known organizations miss out on funds and volunteer hours that would provide a direct and positive impact on the lives of your neighbors.

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In Pierce County, your donations can improve the quality of life of individuals, families, and even children with special needs. Donated money, goods, or services — are all needed in some capacity. Here are a few ways to donate and improve the lives of other Pierce County residents, including one that allows you to commemorate an event or loved one while simultaneously beautifying your community.

Pierce County donations
Single mom Patty C. with son Reese, age 17, who hopes to attend summer camp. Photo credit: Ily Goyanes

Camp Lots of Fun

Camp Lots of Fun, established over three decades ago, is a summer camp program for youth with special needs ages 6 to 21. The program offers over 90 children and young adults the ability to participate in various day camp activities over six weeks every summer. Activities include cooperative play, games, arts and crafts, sports, theme days, and more, plus the chance to make new friends ? an opportunity that doesn’t present easily for many special needs youth.

Camp Lots of Fun looks to promote sharing, cooperation, friendship, sportsmanship, and, of course, fun. Camp is divided into separate weekly camps and runs Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Meridian Habitat Park Community Center in Puyallup. Donations make the Camp Lots of Fun’s registration fees the lowest of all special needs camps in Washington and also allow the camp to hire staff with experience and education in special education.

Pierce County donations
Children riding bikes are full of joy. Photo credit: Ily Goyanes

Bikes for Kids

This wonderful organization provides bicycles for children — and even adults — who need them. The do-gooders at Bikes for Kids make miracles happen, including using donated broken bikes for parts to create working bikes for those in need, so feel free to contribute your less-than-optimal used wheels. Bikes for Kids even offers several drop-off locations for you and your family’s used bicycles, including the Hilltop and Dash Point neighborhoods in Tacoma, plus Fircrest and Federal Way. For specific information on donation drop-off locations and hours, visit the website.

Commemorative Benches

Ever walk through a park, notice a plaque on a bench, and think to yourself that a commemorative bench was a really neat way to recognize a person or an event in your life? Well, you’re obviously not alone and, better yet, it’s rather easy to do and helps improve local parks and their programs. A $5000 donation to Pierce County Parks and Recreation enables you to memorialize loved ones, honor achievements such as graduations, and celebrate milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Your donation includes the bench itself, the inscribed stainless steel plaque, installation, and even maintenance. Benches are available in two colors, green or black, and surface mounted on a concrete slab in select parks and along paved trails throughout the county. Installation takes approximately six months after your donation is received, and once installed, the Parks Department will send you a letter of dedication and a photo of the bench.

Pierce County donations
Donations help the Pierce County Parks and Recreation Department beautify parks and trails, create programs, and offer residents events such as the annual Festival of Lights. Photo courtesy: Pierce County Parks and Recreation

NAMI Pierce County

Your donation to National Alliance on Mental Illness Pierce County will help the organization provide support, education, and advocacy to thousands of Washington residents struggling with mental illness. Be especially confident gifting NAMI Pierce County, knowing that the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), the country’s leading charity watchdog, gave NAMI an A+ for its spending practices. NAMI utilizes donation funds to provide individuals, parents, children, and adolescents with programs and classes at no cost.

Whether you choose to give your money or your time to provide summer camp fun to youth, give the gift of a bike to a person in need or help people successfully navigate the difficulties of mental health issues, you can rest assured that your donation will immediately and directly support the neighborhoods and neighbors you grew up in and around here in Pierce County.