December 22, 2017

‘Tis the season for giving: Top 10 most charitable cities

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

In this 2015 file photo, a woman dressed as a Santa's elf collects donations before the start of the SantaCon pub crawl in New York City. The annual event raises money for charity. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at

Better to give than to receive: The holidays bring out the best in people. The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales to total up to $682 billion this year, up from $655.8 billion last year. But aside from gifts for loved ones, it’s also a time when many think about giving to those who are less fortunate. According to a recent ranking of best places for Christmas celebrations in the nation’s 100 biggest cities, the personal finance website WalletHub also ranked the most generous cities. Using factors like food banks per capita, share of income donated to charity, and online giving per capita, among other factors, WalletHub found Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and Plano, Texas to be the top three most generous cities in the country. Pittsburgh; Atlanta; San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; New York; Boston; and Jersey City, New Jersey round out the top 10.

E-bike expansion: Electric bikes, which help riders with additional energy as they pedal, can provide added mobility and close crucial transit gaps for people in need—and now, they’re coming to one of the cities that pioneered biking infrastructure in the U.S. In 1967, Davis, California, was the first city in the country to paint bike lanes; since then, it has installed bike infrastructure on 76 percent of its streets. However, the city—and surrounding cities, like Sacramento and West Sacramento—have been slow to adopt the bike-share trend that has taken hold in other cities across the country. Now, the city will be moving directly to the next step in bike-sharing: e-bikes. “I think it’ll be revolutionary for a lot of people,” Dan Fuchs, the president of Bike Davis, a local bike advocacy nonprofit, told NextCity. “People don’t know about e-bikes in the U.S. … Davis’ older population could be well served by them.” Through a partnership with Social Bicycles (SoBi), Davis, Sacramento, and West Sacramento plan to introduce 900 e-bikes to the city the end of 2018, making it the largest e-bike-share system in the country. “I keep hearing about pedal-assist bikes being the next wave of innovation,” Jim Brown, executive director of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, told NextCity. “Sacramento is seldom ahead of the curve, but we might be on this one.”

Steakhouse serves the underserved: A steakhouse in Kansas City, Missouri, is pursuing an ambitious range of strategies to support the least fortunate in its community. Anton Kotar, the owner of Anton’s Taproom, opened his restaurant in 2012. Since then, he’s hired 23 former inmates and donates excess food—roughly 300 pounds of meat each week—to local charities. “For every dollar that I’ve ever put back into this community I’ve gotten it back tenfold,” Kotar told NationSwell. Kotar has also emphasized healthy eating at his establishment. As such, he has grass-fed organic beef brought to his restaurant, following the farm-to-table model. “It’s important to me that the customer understands that if I wouldn’t serve it to my seven, five, or three year-old, I wouldn’t serve it to them,” he said.

Mikhail Klimentov and Margaret Myers

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project.

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.