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Sun., Nov. 29, 2009

Editorial: Stimulate region with charitable donations

In its December edition, Men’s Health magazine rated 100 American cities on their level of charitable giving, and Spokane finished an impressive sixth.

Now it’s true that some of these lists can be superficial and are designed to promote the publications as much as the topic. But in this case, we’ll accept the honor, because it squares with the compassion generally on display in the Inland Northwest.

Rather than rest on laurels, we urge residents to shoot for No. 1 next year.

The holiday season is an opportune time for giving, but the economic malaise can make that difficult. Spending surveys show that many people consider charitable donations to be a luxury item, which is the kind of outlay that people tend to dump first when times are tough. And sure enough, charities have reported drop-offs since the recession began.

Giving USA has the dreary data: Two-thirds of public charities saw donation decreases in 2008, and this came at a time when 54 percent of human services charities saw increases in need. In addition, governments have slashed their safety-net programs.

It isn’t that people are getting cheaper, because they’re not. As a percentage of the total economy, charitable donations haven’t changed much, but the economy itself has shrunk.

This calls for some creative strategies.

The economy definitely needs for people to shop, but some people are redirecting spending to help the needy. Rather than give to each other, friends and family members are teaming up to make charitable purchases and donations.

Some parents are paring their kids’ lists but are employing them in efforts to give to others. Children intuitively understand the need and are enthusiastic givers. This practice also teaches philanthropy and the joy of giving to a new generation.

Locally, there are plenty of outlets for charitable shopping, including such traditional examples as The Spokesman-Review’s Christmas Fund, Christmas Tree Elegance, Festival of Trees and Toys for Tots. There are also year-round charities, such as the Salvation Army and Volunteers of America. You can buy a Third World family a heifer or help finance a school’s construction or help fill the shelves of a charitable pantry.

Those are just some of the possibilities.

We understand the economy is bleak and many people are facing hard times. But if you can afford it, tap into the true meaning of the holiday season. It will brighten the outlook for recipients and givers, and confirm, yet again, that this is a region of compassion.

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

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