Year-end giving: Continuing to help those who help others, long past Giving Tuesday

by Year-end giving: Continuing to help those who help others, long past Giving Tuesday
Rusk Cares – Good Samaritan board president Mona Burford accepts a $700 check from Vic Whadford of the Rusk Lions Club for the Good Samaritan food pantry, which serves families from within Rusk ISD. 

Courtesy photo Rusk Cares – Good Samaritan board president Mona Burford accepts a $700 check from Vic Whadford of the Rusk Lions Club for the Good Samaritan food pantry, which serves families from within Rusk ISD. Courtesy photo

In 2012, a philanthropic giving “day” created in New York quickly spread across the nation as donors dedicated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving as their “day” to support organizations providing their communities with food banks, homeless ministries and other social service program. According to the website, in 2020, the event raised $2.47 billion for these organizations – what an incredible gift for those recipients!

While a dedicated day of giving is a fantastic effort, the reality is that Cherokee County programs need more than just a singular “Giving Tuesday,” as they scramble for funds to pay bills, keep supplies stocked or even get funds for future growth projects, and it’s something we need to seriously consider when we realize that poverty is a pressing issue here.

Cherokee County is blessed by the number of organizations that help fill the gap, like the Alto Food Pantry, Rusk Cares – Good Samaritan, the Jacksonville entities like HOPE, The Clothes Closet & More and Highway 69 Mission, the area Meals on Wheels program, along with various and sundry church pantries, clothing ministries, federal school programs, even the local animal rescue, which go above and beyond in their effort to help.

And while they’re doing as best a job as they can, the bald truth is that they’re struggling too, especially in a post-COVID world where contributions are at an all-time low.

“It’s bigger than anybody realizes – we are all suffering because giving is so down, and funds that we all counted on in the past have not been available to us this year, because those funding sources also are hurting,” says Mickey Gear, Clothes Closet director. “We have less funding coming in and more going out – the need is greater, because the people coming in are in worse shape now than they were before. And anything will help.”

Good Samaritan board president Mona Burford, who described how spiraling food costs has placed an unexpected burden on food pantries’ resources, agrees: “Everyone is having the same problems, and it is hurting everybody.”

Social media pages for these non-profit organizations issue regular pleas for donations (and volunteers), because of an unexpected break-down of an HVAC unit, plumbing problems, leaky roofs, increased food costs – or in County Roads Rescue’s place, ongoing medical bills for the care of animals they rescue. These organizations just do not have the discretionary funds to immediately address those problems.

I’ve been an East Texas resident for nearly three decades now, and as I’ve gotten to know you, what has made a lasting impression on me is that despite how you may be struggling yourselves, if there is a need, you’re the first to step up. You’ve generously donated to collections organized by Jacksonville’s Billy Bateman to distribute fans in the summertime, kids’ bikes for Christmas and items collected in response to events like Hurricane Katrina.

You flood your media pages with fundraisers to benefit a family dealing with an unexpected loss or medical expenses.

You purchase those holiday brown bags that Brookshire Brothers creates every year to help feed hungry families.

And you’re the first to step up and give of your time, talent and treasure to be able to help others in need.

I know that the pandemic packed a wallop on our lives economically, but I challenge you to seriously contemplate the various ways that you can help local organizations:

Businesses and churches with an excess of discretionary funds at the end of the calendar year? Contribute them to one of the organizations listed below, then establish planned giving throughout the year to ensure they don’t have to scramble.

Extreme couponers or shoppers with a knack of locating great food and clothing deals? Consider putting those skills to work to help stock a food pantry or clothing program like Coats for Kids.

School students needing volunteer projects or community service hours? Check with different non-profits to see if you can help – they desperately need volunteers.

Doing some deep cleaning and have items you no longer need? Donate to those places who offer items free or inexpensively to families with limited funds.

Time, talent, treasure.

While we may not possess these in abundance, what we are able to share with hard-hit non-profits can make a huge difference in the impact they’ll have in the lives of those in need. Because otherwise, we lose our valuable established resources that have been a haven for those needing their services.

Or, as Gear asks, “Do people really want these ministries to fail because of lack of funding?”

Several local “helping hand” agencies are posted below, along with contact information. A number of these also have social media pages that provide updated information, along with links to donate funds online.

• Alto Food Pantry/The Chaparral Center, 176 W. San Antonio St./PO Box 174, Alto TX 75925. Phone: 936-465-9797

• The Clothes Closet & More, 315 S. Main St., Jacksonville TX 75766. Phone: 903-586-0204

• Rusk Cares – The Good Samaritan Food Pantry and Thrift Store, 190 W. 2nd St., Rusk TX 75785. Phone: 903-683-2376

• HOPE Jacksonville, 595 S. Ragsdale St., Jacksonville TX 75766. Phone: 903-586-7781

• Highway 69 Mission, 203 N. Jackson St., Jacksonville TX 75766. Phone: 903-284-1710

• Tri-County Meals on Wheels, serving Cherokee, Anderson and Rusk Counties. 200 N. Church St., Palestine TX 75801. Phone: 903-729-0612

• County Roads Rescue, 903-339-1312