AS WE transition from a time of giving thanks to a most holy season in which many also focus on gift giving, we would all do well to remember the less fortunate.
You know, those who might not have had as fulfilling a Thanksgiving Day or as filling a meal as many of us did. Those whose homes were probably colder and perhaps even darker than our own, because of lack rather than by choice. Those who might not have had a roof over their heads at all.
Here’s hoping that as we begin — or ramp up — our shopping for Christmas or other holidays, we will all set aside a generous contribution to help brighten the day of some of the many needy members of our community. Unfortunately, while the economy has slowly but steadily improved, many among us remain out of work, down on our luck and in need of a helping hand. Few, if any, of us can say we don’t know anyone in that predicament.
Fortunately, there are many worthwhile nonprofits and charities in our midst toiling every day to try to meet those needs. But, as you might imagine, the needs are far greater than the limited charitable dollars a given nonprofit receives. That’s why they need our help.
Some nonprofits appear to be experiencing particularly difficult times in our community, which has always stepped up to help those in need. In recent months, we’ve seen nonprofits take unfortunate or unusual steps in response to a lack of funding or an overabundance of need.
• Harvest Hope Food Bank, inundated by clients during the summer, was forced to lay off several employees and require remaining employees to take furloughs for nearly two months. The food bank, which recently ended the furloughs, normally serves about 45,000 families a month during the summer, but saw that figure rise to 70,000 families a month.
• The Red Cross dissolved its 89-year affiliation with the United Way of the Midlands in part because the two no longer have overlapping missions. But the disaster relief agency also has seen its funding dip as the United Way continues to refine its funding strategies. The affiliation with the United Way limited the Red Cross’ ability to go out and raise funds to sufficiently support its efforts; it now can attempt raise dollars more freely.
• After seeing its funding fall precipitously, the Cultural Council of Richland/Lexington Counties closed its office operations and will function as a volunteer-only group going forward. The council has been a major funding source for Midlands arts groups for more than 25 years.
It’s difficult to know exactly what to make of it all, but what we do know is that nonprofits are operating in a changing environment in which some corporate donors have reduced what they give or altered the way they give. We know that some individuals who traditionally give have either found themselves in need or faced hardships that reduce their giving. But the changing landscape only accentuates the fact that it’s critical for all of us to give, and not just during the holiday season. People in our community face a lack of food, shelter and other necessities year round.
No matter how much we ourselves may be struggling, there always are people who are struggling more. The opportunities to help are unlimited. If money is difficult to come by, we can volunteer our time. If time is difficult to come by, we can donate our money.
Harvest Hope Food Bank is always in need of volunteers and donations, as is the Salvation Army, which recently kicked of its red kettle drive that depends on volunteer bell ringers.
As you go about your shopping, remember those charities and other mainstays such as the Oliver Gospel Mission and Transitions homeless center and the United Way and the Family Shelter and the Cooperative Ministry, all of which depend on generous donations to accomplish the good work they do.
If you’re looking for something a little more personal, retail centers and many employers sponsor adopt-a-family programs. Or perhaps a neighbor or church member needs help with paying bills or doing yard work or home repairs.
Whatever you have to give, whether your money, time or talents, this is the season.