Open your hearts, and wallets, to the needy this year

December 16, 2010 10:38:00 AM

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The season of giving is upon us. Unfortunately, in a nation wracked by recession and many of us struggling just to make our own ends meet, charitable giving is down. 

 

A report on charitable giving trends by the Giving USA Foundation showed that in 2009, charitable giving was down by 3.2 percent. Charity organizations are critical to helping the poor and needy among us -- that low 2009 number was $303.75 billion. 

 

And, charities rely on the kindness of individuals far more than corporations. Nationwide, 75 percent of all charitable donations came from individuals, while just 4 percent came from corporations and 13 percent from foundations, according to the Giving USA Foundation''s annual report card. 

 

The local United Way is evidence of this trend toward less giving. Donations to the United Way of Lowndes County have dropped steadily over the past five years. Last year, $503,931 was pledged to the United Way by individuals and corporations. Actual collections fell in at $486,471. Collections this year are on track to come in even lower -- around $400,000. 

 

And if you don''t think a few dollars here and there make a difference, look at the Columbus School District. In our landscape of Severstal and Paccar and other major corporations doing business here, Columbus'' public school children and teachers are still the biggest United Way contributors. Initiatives including letting students pay $1 to wear jeans instead of uniforms have brought in more than $80,000 this year. 

 

While donations are down, the need for help by United Way charities, including food pantries and help lines, has never been higher. 

 

This Christmas, think about those in the most need, and open your wallets to them. Drop a few pennies in the Salvation Army kettles around town, if that''s all you can muster. Share in the spirit of this giving season.