Turns out North Texans have pretty generous hearts -- and now there is data to prove it.Texas ranks No. 3 in charitable contributions in the U.S., and the Dallas-Fort Worth area ranks No. 5 among metro areas, according to an online report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.The study is based on data from the IRS for 2008, the most recent year available, showing the value of charitable deductions claimed by taxpayers who itemize and make $50,000 or more.While the study doesn't track contributions that aren't deducted, it did cover about $135 billion of the $214 billion that "Giving USA" estimates individuals contributed that year.Donors living in Tarrant County gave $982 million that year, with a median contribution of $3,472 or 5.6 percent of their income, according to the report.The online report shows total donations by state, city and ZIP code at www.philanthropy.com/americagives."We've long felt this is one of the most generous areas in the country," said Pat Patey, spokesman for the DFW Metroplex Command of the Salvation Army. "Our officers that get transferred here are struck by how generous it is."Last year during the holiday season, the local Salvation Army collected $2.5 million in its 400 red kettles covering five counties in the area, Patey said. This year it's too soon to tell how the kettle collections are going, he said. But most of the 58,700 requests for Christmas presents on the Salvation Army's Angel Trees in local malls have already been fulfilled.The area's generous spirit is needed more than ever as Fort Worth saw its poverty rate jump from 13.7 percent in 2010 to 17.5 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census."There's never enough money to help all the people in need," Patey said. "If we receive more money, we try to help more people."Tim McKinney, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, which works with 100 partner agencies and other community organizations, said Tarrant County citizens are "extremely generous," but there are 4,500 nonprofits in the county to compete for donations.Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, which provides meals daily to 4,000 senior citizens and others in the community as well as other services, has seen calls double to 300 a month for new services this year, said spokeswoman Denise Harris.The agency has never had a waiting list, as in other parts of the country, however, she said.Overall, donations to Meals on Wheels are down for the year, Harris said. To inspire donors, the agency is offering holiday cards to purchase, as well as a service to send cards on your behalf to your holiday list for a donation.Donations also are slightly lower than last at the Tarrant Area Food Bank, while demand is slightly up, said Andrea Helms, spokeswoman for the agency. In addition to monetary donations, the agency has partnered with four local grocery store chains to collect food on behalf of the food bank, she said.Both agencies are included in the Greatest Gift Catalog Ever, a local effort by Elliot Goldman to facilitate charitable giving, particularly for businesses, with 15 local charities by offering gift cards for employers and others to distribute. The gift cards recipient can then choose where the donation can be made."This is our biggest year ever," Goldman said. "In the first four years of the catalog we had just one person do the 'I Want It All' promotion (which donates to every program in the catalog for a cost of $5,937.) This year we have already had three sign up so far."Most of the organizations in the catalog have a matching donor, so every $1 contributed is doubled or even tripled, Goldman said.The catalog is distributed in 500 locations in Tarrant County, including 150 doctor's offices affiliated with Texas Healthcare. Or donors can go to the organization's website."The biggest challenge is that the level of need is just unprecedented," Goldman said. "We're going to do everything we can to help."And maybe you should, too.Teresa McUsic's column appears Saturdays.TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
Ways to give to Texas charities
By QR Code: The DFW Salvation Army's 400 red kettle's now have a QR code for smartphones owners to donate $5 and $10.
Online and texting: Most charities, including the Levitt Pavilion in Arlington, have the capability to accept donations on their websites. Levitt also will accept donations through texting at LEVARL to 20222 . You can also give a $5 donation to the Salvation Army by texting Do Good to 90999 or $10 donation to text BELL to 50555.
By gift card: The Greatest Gift Catalog Ever allows donors to buy gift cards for recipients, who can then donate to one of 15 local charities. The catalog is distributed to 500 locations in Tarrant County. To download the catalog, go to www.TheGreatestGiftCatalogEver.org or call 817-922-8297.
By donating food: The Tarrant Area Food Bank works with local grocery chains -- Kroger, Fiesta and Sprouts -- where customers can donate nonperishable food in prepackaged bags to the food bank by adding the cost to their grocery bill. At Central Market, customers can buy tamales to donate to the food bank at the cash register. The food bank also could use nonperishable foods such as canned vegetables, canned meats, stews, chili and hearty soups, canned fruits and juices, boxed cereals and peanut butter in plastic or metal containers. Drop off at 2600 Cullen St., but call 817-332-9177 first for hours it is open.
By holiday cards: Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County will send out its holiday cards to your list for a donation amount of your choice. A set of 15 cards is $20. For more information, go to www.MealsOnWheels.org.