Helping Others

Here are five reasons why you should donate to a charity this holiday season

A decade ago, Kelly Crocken Figi started a nonprofit that she says has been helping everyone from hospice patients to the family members who care for them.

She’s a licensed physical therapist and massage therapist. Her charity, Hands to Help, provides massage therapy to people who have terminal illnesses, as well as elderly and disabled people and their caregivers.

And it’s free.

Crocken Figi, of Belleville, recalled the difference a massage made for a family from Waterloo. She said the daughter called to arrange it because her father, who was dying, had been having seizures and was agitated and uncomfortable.

“I watched my own dad have seizures before he died, and it’s not anything that anybody should have to see,” she said. “It’s hard. So being able to give her and the rest of the family that little bit of peace towards the end, that’s just another part of it.

“There’s just so many benefits that people can get out of this. It’s not just a massage.”

Crocken Figi said the majority of Hands to Help’s patients come from another local nonprofit: Family Hospice in Belleville.

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For some, their families aren’t around, and a massage means they get to spend time with someone, which Crocken Figi said can make a difference, too.

“So many of our patients, they’re so lonely,” she said. “ ... Nobody talks to them. Nobody sees them. Nobody comes to help them, and they’re just lost. And that hour a week of just conversation and some love, it makes a huge difference even if there’s not physical pain.”

Sharon Scott, of East St. Louis, said the free massages helped her get around after major back surgery. Everyday tasks like getting out of bed and getting dressed were more difficult before the massage therapy and physical therapy treatments, she said.

“It brought me a long ways,” Scott said.

Crocken Figi said that’s because massage can help with pain, flexibility and posture.

The criteria to be eligible for Hands to Help’s services includes a medical diagnosis of a terminal illness like cancer and Alzheimer’s or progressive diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.

The nonprofit will also provide massage therapy to people who are disabled, those who are 70 years old or older and full-time caregivers.

Hands to Help raises money to be able to give each patient six free massages. It costs them $30 after that.

The massage therapists are paid $25 a visit, plus mileage one way. Typically, a massage would cost between $50 and $100, according to Crocken Figi.

Monetary donations can be mailed to Hands to Help at P.O. Box 797 in Belleville. To make a donation online, schedule a session or learn more about the charity, visit

Crocken Figi said Hands to Help would welcome volunteers to plan fundraising events or apply for grant money if they couldn’t give a donation themselves.

Hands to Help is one of many locally-run charities that work to help metro-east residents. Here are five reasons you should donate your time or money this year, according to people who run those nonprofits:

5: It might improve your health.

Carla Boswell said local volunteers recently reported decreased anxiety, depression, loneliness and social isolation and higher life satisfaction after one year of service.

She’s the director of the Senior Companion Program, part of the Programs & Services for Older Persons at Southwestern Illinois College. Boswell cited a new study on volunteering that she said the Corporation for National and Community Service completed.

Senior Companions are volunteers who are 55 years old or older. They provide companionship and assistance to their peers who are homebound or might be socially isolated, according to Boswell.

“Being of service has a multitude of benefits for well-being and provides goodwill to the individuals in the communities served,” she said.

4: It’s an investment in your community.

Donations to local charities like O’Fallon’s Hearts in Faith strengthen the community, according to founder Leslie Davis.

Hearts in Faith supports local single mothers and children.

And the Living Independently Now Center of Southern Illinois helps make the community more inclusive, according to executive director Lynn Hatfield. LINC, Inc. teaches life skills to people of all ages who have disabilities.

3: You could have a say in how your donation is spent.

The Belleville Kiwanis say they have been around since 1948, so they understand the community’s needs might have changed over time.

The Kiwanis invite people to share their ideas about what they see as the metro-east’s needs that aren’t being addressed.

Today, the Kiwanis partner with school nurses and social workers to make sure children in need have items like shoes or something to eat during the summer, among other efforts.

2: There’s measured success.

The Good Samaritan House of Granite City touts itself as the largest homeless shelter for women with children in the St. Louis metro-east region.

While the women stay at Good Samaritan House, they’re also learning life skills that the charity hopes will increase their self-esteem and help them become self-sufficient.

Executive director Latosha Davis said the Good Samaritan House has a 89 percent success rate of transitioning women and their children from homelessness to self-sufficiency within 90 days.

1: You’d be a ‘hero’ to a small operation.

Kelly Crocken Figi said there have been months when the nonprofit she started, Hands to Help, wasn’t able to see new patients because it didn’t have the funding.

“There’s so many nonprofits out there,” she said. “… The big ones out there, you know, United Way and Susan G. Komen and all those big ones, if somebody sends a $10,000 check to them, they’re gonna get a thank you letter. ‘Thanks for your money. Have a good day.’

“If somebody donated $10,000 to an organization like ours, I mean, you’d be our hero. And not just ours. There’s a lot of little organizations around the area that just struggle day to day.”