“When you leave this earth for a better home someday,

the only thing you’ll take is what you gave away,” from “Fallen Leaves,” by country music artist Porter Wagoner.

In the late 1980’s, the fine folks at The Destin Log asked me to write a monthly guest column about real estate. I thought they were nuts – I told them that I knew nothing about writing. They told me to simply write about my own personal experiences. So, what the heck did I have to lose? Perhaps it would help my fledgling real estate company get some free publicity. After studying a few reference books, I started writing. It worked! And the rest is history.

This column is about the warm, fuzzy feeling that I have experienced by giving to those who are less fortunate than I. My most rewarding opportunity occurred when my tax preparer told me that he and some fellow parishioners were going to South America on a mission to build a church. That piqued my interest. He explained that we would be paying our own expenses, including the airfare. We would also donate needed goods and money to those living in poverty down there. I jumped at it.

One of my drinking buddies thought I had lost my mind. Why would anyone spend his own money to go to a foreign land, risk disease, work hard with no pay and no play just to help some strangers who didn’t even speak the same language? My answer: “I’m not doing it only for them; I’m also doing it for me. In some ways, I will benefit more then they.” And so I did.

We now have some golden opportunities to enrich our own lives by giving to others that we don’t even know. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left residents of Texas and South Florida with nothing … and I mean nothing. They lost all their earthly possessions, including their homes, for which they may still owe money on. We tend to think of Texans and South Floridians as well off. But there is plenty of poverty to spread around. For example, the native Americans working in cane fields around the Everglades. They need friends and we can become their friends.

Here are some tips on how to make your donation go as far as possible:

Do your research before giving. Disasters such as these bring out the best of us and the worst of us. Don’t fall for some fake charity with a phony title that sounds good but does nothing but scam you out of your hard-earned, well-intended money. They are evil. Almost as bad are the “legal” charities that pay their executives huge salaries and keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect for “fundraising purposing.”

This is a good opportunity for you to clean out your pantries, closets and cabinets to donate non-perishable food, clothes and household goods. However, it is quicker, easier and much more efficient to donate money. But do it with a check or credit card to prevent theft.

Do your research before you give. This will be a long-term recovery with long-term needs. Some of those who rushed to contribute through one of the telethons have had second thoughts since learning that the telethon had turned political. Now is not the time to push a political agenda under the guise of philanthropy.

As always, please send me and The Destin Log your questions and comments. The contact information appears at the end of this column.

In closing, do yourself a good deed by giving to those in need. You’ll be glad you did.

Jack Simpson has owned and managed rental properties in Destin since 1974 and has lived in the city since 1983. His column is designed to start conversations in the community. To respond to Jack's column in The Log, email your letter to the editor or guest column to dricketts@thedestinlog.com. To contact Jack directly, email jacksimpson@cox.net.