The Joy of Giving

I was preparing a donation of canned goods for the Boy Scouts’ Scouting for Food Project, when the same thoughts came to mind that come every time I do this.  Why are there hungry people in the greatest country on earth AND why do we participate more during the holidays?  Aren’t there hungry people the other eleven months of the year?  These questions really bother me so I did a little research, not that it helped, but you may be interested in what I found.

According to the National Philanthropic Trust statistics Americans give more money to charitable organizations every year topping out at 335.17 billion dollars in 2013 and expected to be even higher in 2014.  Of that grand sum…and that is grand, only 16.76 billion is corporate donations, the largest source of that total is 72% from individuals.  Does that surprise you?  It does me.  The most surprising statistic to me was that 95.4% of American households give to charity.  This stat shouldn’t surprise me because Americans are the kindest and most generous people in the world.  However, these numbers represent all types of giving and not just food for the hungry.  Giving in this amount is no minor feat in these hard times, and I applaud every single person who donates to the charity of their choice.

The US government spends 82.5 billion dollars on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).   Hello…that means that we individual citizens give 4 times more to charity than does the federal government.  Individual states have their own assistance programs, and it’s still not enough. Where does it go?  At record breaking dollar amounts how can we still have hungry children?

New organizations pop up every year in an effort to make life a little better for someone else.  Following are some things we’ve enjoyed and I hope you’ll find a niche that encourages you to join the millions of other Americans who continue to give of themselves.

Our oldest daughter and I have had a tradition of getting the wish list of children to shop for at Christmas time.  Most of the time the lists are for clothing or a special toy, but one year it was boots and shoes…does that tug at your heart or what?  This makes us sound nice, right?  Nay…we get more out of it than I’m sure the recipients do.  Shopping with my daughter is pure entertainment.  She knows everyone within a 3-county radius and inevitably we spend more time greeting her friends than on the task at hand.  When doubtful of a purchase we find a child (with the parents permission of course) of the appropriate age in the store to question as to whether we’re on the right track.  From there it’s off to the check-out line where again her effervescent personality attracts the attention of everyone around us and it turns into a party rather than the often grumpy line of people impatience with the speed of the cashier.

I love the mitten tree at church because, as you can imagine, it turns into a mitten, hat and scarf tree since everyone wants to provide matching sets.

Food collections, Secret Santas, Toys for Tots, and volunteer gift wrapping all supplement the ringing of the Salvation Army bell serenading shoppers in our malls, but why only during the holidays do we give that little extra?


 Just a few of the 35 lapghans packaged and ready for delivery to a local nursing home.

Speaking of volunteers, you’ll really like this, 64.5 million adults volunteered a total of 7.9 billion hours of service worth an estimated value of 175 billion dollars.  The estimated dollar value is $22.55 per hour per person.  Is that amazing?  What charity could afford to pay people to do the work of those volunteers?   I can tell you, from personal experience, that without these volunteers our hospitals, libraries, and organizations like the American Red Cross could not survive.

From a very early age, my mother dragged me around to funding raising activities and charity dinners where I didn’t know a soul and I’m not sure she did, but we went, we cooked, we served, we cleaned up, and we went home exhausted.  I remember one spaghetti supper when I lifted the plates out from under the noses of two priests before they were finished eating.  Boy, I never heard the end of that one.  It must be hereditary because we still do the same thing in our home today.  Get those dishes done!

Here’s one I loved because I love winter; at a young age my brother and I were expected to shovel snow from the walks of neighbors for free.  The best part was seeing if we could get it done after dark and without them knowing.  We loved our secret and always wondered if the neighbors knew who did it.  Tell me your son or daughter wouldn’t hold their heads a little higher at school the next day.

Life seemed more innocent in those days.  Hand-me-down clothes to friends or taking a meal to an elderly neighbor were the norm.  You weren’t afraid to offer a stranger a lift on a cold day or someone shelter while they waited for a bus.

There are still good people today and here’s an example of a true story I heard on a talk radio program last year.  A man called in who had lost his job.  He has a family and lives in a depressed area where he didn’t know how long it would take to find a new job. Instead of waiting for the unemployment check and becoming a couch potato, he went hunting.  Lucky for him he lives in a state that does not have a limit or at least has a high limit on the number of deer one can take every year.  This man filled his freezer with venison so that his family would not go hungry.  Other people in his community were also losing their jobs so he filled their freezers as well.  As you would expect, the word got around and with the help of a few friends they fed over 40 families that year.  I have questioned for years why properly trained sportsmen are not allowed to fill food banks with venison or any type of game fit for human consumption.  Why is Congress still paying subsidies to farmers to not plant…yup, they just hide it better now.  Couldn’t the excess be provided to food banks or shipped to third world countries. And, this one will really kill you, we have a feral hog problem spreading rapidly in the United States.  I’ve researched this and talked to hunters and farmers and they all tell me, if done properly, the meat from these hogs is completely safe for humans.  If the story is good enough to be made into a TV show someone is making money from it.  Instead of bragging about how many hogs you killed, how about bragging about how many families you fed.  From what I understand, as fast as these hogs multiply, it would only take a few shipments to third world countries for them to multiply and feed the starving masses.  If you can afford to produce a TV show, you can afford to ship some hogs.  Of course, of course, I forgot about the bureaucratic red tape.

I’m a firm believer it is better to give than to receive, and this is the perfect time of year to start a new tradition with your family.  Begin by having your younger children clean out toys they no longer play with, wash them up, and give them to the Salvation Army.  Volunteer as a family at a food bank or a Ronald McDonald House once a month.  This is not a huge sacrifice, just a few hours spent with your family being kind to strangers.

It’s amazing how a simple act of kindness can make a difference in the life of a hungry person, a lonely person or a homeless person.  Everyone has something to give…kindness, love, caring. If you have a skill, share it, as those do who work all year long to donate afghans to the Warm Up America Project.  Trust me, volunteering, especially as a family, will bring you closer, teach your children empathy, and your hearts will burst with the joy of giving.



This year’s donation of handmade afghans made by volunteers.

Quote of the Day:  “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

There’s still time to enter my contest to win a free copy of Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.

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SOLD:  The Rosedawn, advertised here in past blogs, has been sold and is making one lucky lady very happy.  I have left the pictures up on the previous blogs just so you can enjoy the beautiful house.  Send me pictures of your house to share with others!

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