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Editorial: Compassion for needy a hallmark of our region

With a sluggish economy and gnawing uncertainty, it isn’t surprising that charitable giving slid last year.

Giving USA Foundation says it was down 3.6 percent overall. The year before that, two-thirds of public charities reported drop-offs in contributions. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in October that donations dropped by 11 percent for the 400 biggest charities.

Meanwhile, governmental human services budgets have been slashed in response to lower tax collection. With temporary assistance from the federal government, many states had been able to fend off the pain, but that is coming to an end as the feds try to rein in deficit spending.

Get used to a steady stream of headlines such as: “Washington Medicaid patients to lose services.” Next month, thousands of people will get the official word that they’ve lost some health care services, such as dental, hearing and hospice care.

More pain is on the horizon as state and local governments slash services to balance budgets and unemployment benefits run out for many. A sliver of hopeful news emerged recently when it was reported that jobless claims were at their lowest level since July 2008, perhaps signaling a slow recovery in employment.

Despite this drumbeat of depressing data, we are hopeful that the region will come through for its needy families, and especially the children, during this holiday season.

History says we’re not crazy.

The region’s compassion was on full display last year, even as the economy lobbed lumps of coal. The Christmas Fund, with its 350 volunteers, met its fundraising goal and exceeded the number of families it hoped to help by nearly 4,000.

The charity has set the target at $500,000 this year in its quest to make sure that children get a decent Christmas Day toy and families have a hearty holiday meal.

The Christmas Bureau, which is headquartered at the Spokane County fairgrounds, is a partnership among this newspaper, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, but the most important contributors are individuals and businesses that dig deep to keep it well-stocked. Other local holiday charities include Christmas Tree Elegance, Festival of Trees and Toys for Tots. Then there are year-round charities, such as the Salvation Army.

It’s a cliché, but we’ll repeat it. Those who give get so much in return. And that’s why we believe that compassion will trump the economy yet again.

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