Nearly two months after end-of-year charitable tax deductions drove up the usual giving rate of average Americans, the need for charity in the U.S. and worldwide drives a new kind of giver: the year-round philanthropist.
Like tech CEOs and leaders Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Larry Ellison and Bill Gates who make the headlines with their philanthropic commitments year-round, everyday Americans also contribute time and money to help charities still struggling six years after the economic crash.
The need for charitable resources in America is great. For example, 29 states have cut funding for older and disabled people, and 32 states have increased needs for home care meals, even as the Meals On Wheels organization suspends routes from decreased contributions. If congressional domestic spending cuts take effect March 1, the MOW program will deliver 19 million fewer meals, leaving 200,000 seniors without them each year. Included are 21 percent of America's single or widowed women over 65 who live in poverty.
Disasters such as Hurricane Sandy's $62 billion in damages have left shelters overwhelmed with those who have lost their homes, and food banks hard-pressed to meet the doubling in demand caused by the storm. In the works is the Empire State Relief Fund, a portal for charitable donations. Numerous groups around the country rose to meet the need for assistance of every kind in the hurricane's wake, and still help months later.
The MoveOn Civic Action organization is one such group. In the wake of Sandy, they provide body warmers to those without heat as the cold comes in, create warming stations, and establish portable sanitation systems. Their on-going relief efforts include distributing food, water, clothing and basic supplies to the homeless victims.
American children have not escaped the effects of the country's economic downturn, and their hunger is being felt by the hundreds in every community in America. Blessings In a Backpack teams up with charitable groups in towns throughout the country to make sure hungry children take food home in backpacks. Often these charities are run by teenagers who start them as projects for churches, synagogues and schools, and then continue them when they see the extent of the need. As one teenage organizer says of the effort, "These are kids we see at the mall and play baseball with. We can't stop doing this."
As winter presses the nation, power companies are stepping up their fundraising to bring heat to low-income families. Georgia Natural Gas started the HEAT (Heating Energy Assistance Team) to raise money for the cause throughout the state.
Everyday philanthropists can find myriad ways to donate to communities in America. They can start at home and then, if they wish, move on to the rest of the nation. The need is everywhere, and there is a cause for everyone.