Like most things in 2020, the holiday season looks a little different this year. Many people have lost loved ones, jobs, and homes. When you consider the damage COVID-19 has inflicted on the financial, physical, and mental health of families nationwide, it can feel impossible to solve.
But solutions exist, and you don’t have to look far to find them. Fred Rogers once famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Nobody connects the helpers to the hurting more efficiently than a local charity.
Giving to a local charity provides the chance to see your gift have an immediate and profound impact on the community around you — the people you see in the grocery store, the children on the school bus that passes your house each morning, the neighbors who are quietly struggling to put food on the table, much less buy Christmas presents this year.
Local nonprofit organizations have a deep understanding of the need in your community because the people running them are your neighbors. They have the local knowledge needed to tackle the messy problems of homelessness, unemployment, hunger, and more. They also have the flexibility to adapt when the old way of doing things is no longer working.
Local volunteers know a one-size-fits-all approach to society’s biggest challenges is not going to cut it. They invest a Herculean amount of time and effort into finding solutions that work, one person and one family at a time.
At my organization, Better Together, a voluntary alternative to foster care in southwest Florida, we have built a deeply committed support system that includes people, churches, mentors, coaches, and other leaders of the community. We know from experience that when families enter a crisis, it’s rarely “just one thing” that pushed them over the edge.
Like many local nonprofit organizations, our volunteers are ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. They provide temporary refuge for children in their homes and offer parents everything from shoulders to cry on to job coaching to help with securing housing, seeking treatment, finding reliable child care, making household budgets, and more.
Those relationships grow over time, and a real community forms out of these experiences.
We’ve had parents stay in touch with the host families and invite them to birthday parties and other events. We’ve had several “alumni” of the program come full circle, becoming volunteers to pay it forward and support other families in need.
That is the power of giving locally.
Much like first responders and front-line workers, your local charity volunteers have been working overtime during the pandemic. They are serving food at homeless shelters, working the overnight shift at crisis hotlines, and finding innovative ways to provide a glimmer of hope in the darkest moments for our neighbors.
Even in a pandemic, our volunteers at Better Together are hosting children in their homes and helping people find jobs, safe places to live, trusted child care, virtual schooling, and treatment programs. They are lifting society up, one person and family at a time.
While politicians in Washington continue fighting over the details of another COVID-19 relief package, local charities and service organizations are providing solutions for our neighbors who need help right now.
These efforts are happening in communities nationwide, but we need your help. People have done a wonderful job of supporting our local businesses during the pandemic. On Giving Tuesday, we must do the same for our local charities.
When you read about scary things in the news, take a moment to look around for the helpers in your town or city. Real change can be accomplished at the local level. In fact, it already is.
This piece originally appeared at the Washington Examiner
Megan Rose is the CEO of Better Together, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping children out of foster care by strengthening families through work and relational support. She’s also a 2020-21 Civil Society Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images