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Holiday giving: How to choose a charity

New tools help givers, and those in need, find answers.

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Volunteer Larissa Nyuko serves lunch to the needy at a kitchen run by San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church.

Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor

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In June 2006, when Wendy Maholic learned that her husband, a master sergeant, had been killed in Afghanistan, her thoughts turned to her 10-year-old son. As she struggled with her grief, she wondered how to help fill the hole left by the loss of his father.

As months passed, Mrs. Maholic learned of a small, up-and-coming charity in Colorado called Knights of Heroes, which provides free, all-inclusive summer camps and long-term mentoring programs for sons of fallen soldiers.

A week of fishing, canoeing, and horseback riding with other children and adult male role models – especially ones who ostensibly knew what Andrew was going through – seemed perfect, but Maholic was apprehensive. The camp was located in Colorado Springs, Colo. She and Andrew were in Fort Bragg, N.C. No one in her immediate circle of friends and family had heard of the organization.

It seemed promising. The camp even offered to arrange for mothers and sisters to be lodged nearby during the

session. But she needed more. Like many parents in search of advice, she went online and discovered what she needed – and a new way to evaluate charities.

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