Today, Sept. 11, is Patriot Day.
It's not a federal holiday. Federal and state offices are open. So are businesses and schools, where allowed by COVID-19 precautions.
It is, however, a solemn day in the United States.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger airplanes.
Two flew into the Twin Towers in Manhattan, causing these landmark skyscrapers to collapse.
A third crashed into the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C.
The fourth commandeered aircraft plunged into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers wrested cockpit control from the terrorists and sacrificed themselves to prevent the plane from making it to its presumed White House target.
At all these locations a total of 2,977 people died, more than 25,000 were injured and survivors, both those working in the target areas and the first responding police officers and firefighters who rushed to the sites to help, have endured substantial long-term health consequences.
Honoring memories, helping others: Now each Sept. 11 commemorations are held at the memorials erected where the planes went down. Elsewhere, such as the rebuilt Pentagon federal building in Arlington, Virginia, many stop their daily routines to observe the time of the attacks and honor those who died or were injured.
And some on this annual National Day of Service and Remembrance contribute to charities created to help the families of those killed in the terrorist attacks or give of their time helping such nonprofits or others that are important to their personal causes.
The National Corporation for Community Service, which grew out of the many commemorations of the 9-11 victims and now incorporates the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, can help you find charitable remembrance activities and opportunities in your area.
Such volunteer work is especially important this year, as the United States and the rest of the world work through the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, several areas of the country are dealing with major natural disasters, from deadly West Coast wildfires to the aftermaths of a Midwestern derecho and Hurricane Laura.
In addition to helping those affected by these recent catastrophes, here are 10 more ways you can help honor Sept. 11 victims and help their survivors, contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts and generally do some good for your own community, today and any day.
- Donate to Nonprofits: Cash donations are the best way to support the nonprofit of your choice. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) has a list of organizations supporting COVID-19 response efforts. GuideStar and Great Nonprofits also have search engines to locate organizations that need help.
- Donate or Volunteer Safely with Food Banks and Pantries: Donate to food banks and pantries to help them stock up or volunteer at a food bank that needs help packing and sorting food using safe practices. Visit Feeding America or Food Pantries to find an organization near you.
- Deliver Meals and Groceries to Vulnerable Seniors: Help out someone you know or contact your local Meals on Wheels to learn ways to volunteer.
- Help a School: Check with your area school system to see if they need volunteers to distribute food (or other items) to children and families in need.
- Give Blood: Blood donations have decreased dramatically. Help fill the need by contacting your local Red Cross or other blood donation sites.
- Become a Medical Volunteer: Trained medical volunteers can offer their services by registering with a NVOD participant. Medical professionals and others can help locally by joining the Medical Reserve Corps or registering through the Emergency System for the Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals.
- Donate Medical Supplies and Equipment: If you have medical supplies or equipment to donate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) National Business Emergency Operations Center at email@example.com.
- Stay in Touch: Check on your neighbors, friends, and family. This outreach is particularly important for those who are older or may be alone. A phone call, text, or a conversation through the door could brighten their day.
- Serve in Your Community: Many states are identifying local volunteer opportunities; visit your State Service Commission's website for details.
- Volunteer from Home: Even where your own physical and medical situation means you must stay at home, you still can contribute more than money. AllForGood.org has some home volunteer service ideas.
Taxes and charities: If you want to contribute, either your time or money, today or any time, thank you.
Uncle Sam also might provide you some financial thanks, too, at tax filing time. Donations to nonprofits that have passed Internal Revenue Service muster can be claimed as a tax deduction.
In most cases, this is done by claiming your charitable donation, either money or household goods, as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. But this year, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded the donation deduction to filers who use the standard deduction instead of itemize.
As for volunteering, the time you donate is not tax deductible. But you can deduct the value of any in-kind donations you make as a volunteer if you itemize. This includes things such as the office supplies you bought when you spent the day helping organize your favorite nonprofit's administrative and operational systems.
And don't forget to count the miles you drive your own car in volunteer service to a charity, like delivering meals to shut-ins or taking the community center's job training folks to interviews.
I know that most folks don't think of tax rewards when they give. But if you can get some tax benefits from your goodwill, there's nothing wrong with doing so. Your philanthropic tax savings could give you a few more dollars to give back to your favorite causes.
You also might find these items of interest:
- 5 ways to determine whether a charity is naughty or nice
- Giving Tuesday tips to maximize your donations & deductions
- Uncommon charitable gifts still provide donors the typical tax deduction