It is often the crisis that gets our attention and our generosity, and that’s a good thing.
Witness the recent outpouring of donations to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. In response to the efforts of one of its employees, who has family in the Philippines, Ocean State Job Lot arranged to ship $160,000 in clothing to the island nation last week. In Warwick, schools have rallied to the cause, collecting bottled water, canned goods, energy bars and diapers. They joined the steady stream of cars to Cardi’s Furniture locations this past Sunday. Toll Gate students, as well as police recruits and other groups, sorted donations and prepared them to be shipped.
The response has been heartwarming. We’re helping.
On another level, the faith community and organizations have been responding to the needy within our midst. This is hardly news. Year after year for whatever reason – loss of a job, illness, a death in the family – people have had trouble making ends meet. Year after year, the community steps up to help. There are numerous service clubs, churches and companies that have a tradition of helping. They make food baskets, create giving trees and run telethons. Others help the cause by soliciting donations and putting out collection buckets at Christmas displays, whether a lighting display as done by Frank Picozzi or the Christmas village display run by Dan Cunningham.
This Thanksgiving, 700 families and individuals will receive a donated food basket. Coordinating the effort – matching the needy with the donor and ensuring that all who need get help – is the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program. The city verifies the need and acts as a collection point for donations. The city Finance Department keeps records and makes disbursements for food gift certificates, although, technically, Neighbors is not a line item in the city budget.
This layer of accountability is reassuring. So also, is the tradition of sufficient reserves to guarantee needs are met. The program entered this season $19,000 in the black.
That should cover virtually all the expenses for this year. But if donations are forthcoming this year, and they have been slow thus far, next year is going to be a problem, maybe even a crisis.
We don’t need one of those, although the community will surely respond. Our plea, therefore, is not to be lulled by the news that we met this Thanksgiving and Christmas need. Think, and give ahead, so Neighbors can continue to meet the need.