It’s not a secret to anybody that conditions have been far from easy for companies in most sectors. Individuals have been hit hard, too, whether they’re dealing with unexpected layoffs or business slowdowns that have hurt their companies’ bottom lines.
And even as economic pressures may make it harder for people and companies to donate in the community, many nonprofits may find themselves facing a deluge of more struggling families in need of help. The recession, it seems, is a multi-edged sword.
Based on the latest United Way of the Ozarks campaign, however, southwest Missouri’s giving spirit is alive and well.
Earlier this month, United Way celebrated the completion of its 2010 campaign, which drew $3.5 million in pledges, just 1 percent shy of its goal.
United Way – a volunteer-driven organization focused on understanding human needs and mobilizing resources to meet them – celebrated numerous highlights for the 2010 campaign, including the fact that allocations for the year were $3.08 million. United Way provides funding for more than 40 programs and initiatives that address critical health and human service needs in 14 counties, according to www.uwozarks.com
United Way also honored 23 entities with its Circle of Caring designation, signifying support from at least half of their employees and gifts of at least $150 per capita. The John C. Rush Award, recognizing companies, organizations and partner agencies that achieved increases of at least 15 percent in United Way contributions, were presented to 43 entities. Also bestowed were Pillar awards, which represent the highest benchmarks in creating and sustaining a United Way culture. Pillar recipients were: Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Corporate Humanitarian of the Year; Ozarks Regional YMCA, Outstanding Community Service; and Julie Reynolds, Buddy Ball and Cindy Norman, Outstanding United Way Volunteers.
Giving isn’t just about the money. The organization reported that more than 1,800 volunteers offered their skills to United Way’s Day of Caring in August, and its Hands on for Seniors initiative completed more than 113 home maintenance and repair projects for 74 senior citizens in need.
When times get tough, it might be easy to hunker down and batten the hatches, focusing only on individual or business needs, which surely are plenty these days.
I suspect that the folks and companies that threw their support behind United Way are looking at a bigger picture. Meeting vital needs locally – or beyond – says something about the kind of community in which we live. It says something about who we are – and who our neighbors are, whether that help is given through United Way or other community groups.
Here are just a few ways you might be able to help others:
• Springfield Sister Cities Association is raising money to help Springfield’s sister city, Isesaki, Japan, in the aftermath of earthquake and tsunami devastation. Plans are to send the first installment of funds raised – $35,000 – to Japan on April 1, according to SSCA Coordinator Cindy Jobe. Isesaki residents sent financial help after Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina and the Ozarks’ ice storm, trusting us to put the money to use where it was most needed. Now is our chance to repay that kindness, as Jobe said SSCA would continue accepting donations and relaying them to Japan as long as is needed – and as long as local citizens are willing to help. Upcoming fundraisers include a night of music April 13, at Lindberg’s on Commercial Street, featuring musical groups who have visited Isesaki as part of SSCA’s cultural exchange. Visit www.peacethroughpeople.org to find out more.
• Numerous groups seek mentors to help children succeed in school. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks needs adults – men in particular – to invest time with young people, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield needs help with its new Mission to Mentor program. Visit www.bgclubspringfield.org
• Food pantries are working to put food on the tables of hungry families. Perhaps you can afford to buy a few extra groceries during weekly shopping trips. Or better yet, talk to employees about organizing a food drive. Every little bit helps, but big goals can be met when people work together. Several area churches and organizations have food pantries, and Ozarks Food Harvest, www.ozarksfoodharvest.org
distributes food in 29 southwest Missouri counties. And just recently, Ozarks Food Harvest and Community Foundation of the Ozarks have teamed up for the second annual Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge, led by a $125,000 Walmart Foundation challenge grant.
Anne Frank once wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
And she was right. There are plenty of challenges in the community and in the world, but those also are opportunities to jump in and lend a hand. Are you ready? Features Editor Maria Hoover may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.