Two families in our neighborhood have lost homes this year.

Not to fire, flooding, or avalanche or other such natural disasters but because of money. They ran short on their mortgage payments before anyone in Washington was talking about a bank bailout. Or a bailout for the Big Three automakers. Or for the homebuilders.

How I wish foreclosures were rare. Sadly, they aren't. Researcher RealtyTrak reports that more than 765,000 U.S. properties received default notices in the third quarter. Default notices are the required legal precursor to a foreclosure.

When money is tight
You may not be in danger of losing your home. You may be more like me -- deeply in debt and getting by, but not by much. Or you may have lost a job. Or maybe you've been stuck with unexpected medical bills.

Whatever the reason, you may be unable to give this year what you have in the past. If so, don't despair. Every Fool faces tough times. And it's not like you can't help in other ways.

Give us two cents, and we'll do the same
How about using your know-how? If you're here, chances are you're a pretty good stock picker. At the very least, you've probably investigated two or three companies you think would be worth owning in a portfolio of stocks. Maybe you were early into these 2008 winners:


CAPS Stars
(5 max)

YTD Return

Emergent BioSolutions (NYSE:EBS)



Star Scientific



Crawford & Co.



Fuel Systems (NASDAQ:FSYS)



TeleCommunication Systems



Data current as of Nov. 27, 2008.

We want to know why you bought and what you're buying next. And we're willing to pay for your time. Post your thoughts to any of our discussion boards or in Motley Fool CAPS from now till January 20, 2009, and we'll contribute $0.02 to, a group that creatively funds public school projects. Last month, Fools named it this year's Foolanthropy charity of choice.

Where to start
Need some ideas for how you can help a kid without opening your wallet? Here's a list of some of our most active discussion boards:

And here's a brief list of high-rated stocks that our very best CAPS investors like now:


CAPS Stars
(5 max)

Total Pitches

Genentech (NYSE:DNA)



China Fire & Security (NASDAQ:CFSG)






Novartis (NYSE:NVS)



Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN)



Data current as of Nov. 27, 2008.

The Foolish bottom line
This is the 11th year of Foolanthropy. To date, more than $2.5 million has flowed from Fools to worthy charities. Many have generously opened their wallets in the effort and, for that, we're grateful.

But that won't be possible for many this year. We understand. Just don't let a run of bad luck ruin your giving mood. Instead, contribute time and talent to your fellow investors on our discussion boards and in CAPS and then let us foot the bill for charity. It's the least we can do for a Fool like you.

Other Foolish ideas for giving back:

This article was originally published on Dec. 21, 2006. It has been updated.

China Fire & Security Group is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Infinera is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool owns shares of Infinera. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy gives generously.