Archive for December, 2010

Remember the True Spirit of the Holiday

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of news about the robust business many retailers are experiencing this Christmas season. While the news is encouraging, we must remember that the economic recovery remains elusive to many Americans. Rather than buying the latest electronic gadget, these people still struggle just to find basic food and shelter.

As Christmas approaches, we at Volunteers of America hope everyone will remember the true spirit of Christmas and focus on helping those in need, rather than on the consumption and celebration that can overshadow the holiday.

Operating over capacity continues to be the norm for Volunteers of America. Lansing, Michigan, is one example of a community particularly hard-hit by the recession. Volunteers of America has long offered shelter and food for the homeless in Lansing, but in the last few years the growth in demand has been remarkable – they served 78,000 meals a year before the recession, but that number grew to 108,000 last year and is expected to top 120,000 by the end of this year.

At the same time, charitable organizations as a whole are experiencing a significant drop in donations. A recent study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University showed the amount of gifts from wealthy donors dropped 35 percent between 2007 and 2009. This trend, combined with a shrinking supply of federal and state money, means we face a future where we will increasingly need to provide more with less.

The importance of donations from individuals can never be overstated. Philanthropy makes a critical difference in the lives of people we serve. It helps us fill gaps in existing funding to create new services in response to emerging needs. Donations not only allow organizations like Volunteers of America to serve more people, but also to address the quality as well as the quantity of services. It is the factor that turns public housing into family homes, and makes the difference between simply keeping people alive and giving them a life.

This Christmas season, please take a moment to remember the true spirit of the holiday. We all have the power to give the gift of a better life to someone who desperately needs help.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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