Returning to the Tradition of Giving – A Response to America’s Recession
As national unemployment rates loom at more than 9%, Americans enter this holiday season with some trepidation. As the recession drags on, consumers are less likely to make luxury and gift item purchases. Holiday retail sales should expect returns to be impacted. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the African-American community has been particularly hard-hit, with unemployment rates soaring to 15.4% in November, and up to 48% among African-Americans between the ages of 16 and 20.
With members of already struggling communities taking the brunt of the economic downturn, holiday shopping is far from their minds. Simply keeping a roof over their heads and a meal on the table is difficult enough. In response to the growing number of families affected by unemployment, food banks and clothing distribution center stores have been depleted. Across the nation, service organizations are asking citizens who can to donate goods to help their fellow Americans.
Locally, Arizonans are braving the 9.4% unemployment rate and its citizens are keeping with the spirit of community service by answering the many calls for donations to the homeless and underprivileged. This season there have been blanket drives for the homeless and food drives to replenish the shelves at St. Mary’s and St. Vincent DePaul’s. Bells continue to ring outside retail establishments for the smallest of donations to continue the work of the Salvation Army. Churches, mosques, and synagogues are feeding the hungry. Giving trees are providing clothing, toys, and household goods to families in need. Collectively the impact on poverty and need should be tremendous, but there is so much more to do.
Everyday people are losing jobs and their family’s sole means of support. People are abruptly transitioning from living the American dream to struggling through a nightmare. One saving grace was the tax cut compromise President Obama made with the Republican Party to insure an extension of unemployment benefits to jobless Americans. Without the extension, so many more people would be in dire straits. But that’s not enough.
Community leaders are calling for a return to traditions and values once commonplace in the African-American community. Family members and close friends are bringing back the Sunday dinner where truth and love are served with hearty nourishment. Restoring our president’s message of hope and community service is critical as we move forward through this holiday season and the New Year. Those Americans not as hard hit by the recession can support local charities that bring Christmas cheer and basic needs to desperate families. In Arizona you can call: St. Vincent de Paul; St. Mary’s Food Bank; Save the Family Foundation; Maggie’s Place; Big Brother Big Sister; Arizona Women’s Partnership; and Casa Cares to name a few.
Charitable organizations address a myriad of needs including services for the homeless, shelter for women and children escaping violence; rescue for runaway teens; food for struggling families; and so much more. Almost all of these organizations can make arrangements to pick up donated items directly or they may be dropped off at locations across the valley.
Find your spirit of giving this year. It’s the right thing to do. We don’t know the all the circumstances that may bring someone to a place of need – unemployment, decrease in salary, furlough. We do know that “There but for the grace of God go I”.
Karen Rowe Gilliland