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This past year has taken so much from so many. Normal routines, long-standing traditions, jobs, friends and family — the losses in a year defined by a global pandemic have felt relentless. As 2020 keeps taking, there remains a great need for giving from those who are able to do so.
“We have kids who ask for blankets. We have families that ask for diapers and wipes. We have a homeless girl who has asked for a home,” Dorothy Havey, the development director of Waldo Community Action Partners (CAP), told the Bangor Daily News in a story this week.
Havey said that Waldo CAP provides about 1,200 families in need with food boxes, and supplies toys to help fulfill holiday wish lists for children. And they’re having trouble keeping up with the demand right now.
“We would have asked small local businesses for help, but they are struggling themselves,” she said. “So our donations are down, absolutely, but the children’s requests for Christmas gifts have not gone down.”
As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have all become staples of a normal holiday shopping season, so too has Giving Tuesday, an initiative created in 2012 around the power of generosity. That message is particularly important this year.
This Giving Tuesday arrives as many Maine people are struggling. An early November survey from the U.S. Census Bureau found that 31 percent of Mainers were having trouble paying for typical household expenses. Applications for multiple public assistance programs have increased by about 50 percent since the summer, and the state continues to receive more than 100 daily applications for rental assistance.
Nonprofit organizations have not been immune from the current struggle, either.
“It’s possibly the end for some nonprofits. They’re really nervous about the outlook for the future,” Laura Young, vice president of philanthropy at the Maine Community Foundation, told the BDN.
With these troubling realities in mind, we once again encourage Mainers to think about their ability to give. And as with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, people should think locally. Give what you can, if you can. Not everyone can give $2 million to food banks, like Michael Jordan just did, but every donation can be a small win for Maine charitable organizations and the people they serve.
There are several different ways to donate this holiday season. Many thrift stores and relief agencies are once again accepting donations of used items, with some COVID-19 restrictions, after temporarily closing those operations earlier in the pandemic. People can give blood, and give time to local organizations while also following virus precautions.
For all the worrisome headlines 2020 has brought to our doorstep, there have also been uplifting stories about the generosity of Maine people and Maine organizations. There have been historic, long-term investments like the half a billion dollars in education and workforce grants pledged by the Harold Alfond Foundation. And there have been heartwarming, individual efforts like a 9-year-old girl from Brewer donating backpacks filled with back-to-school supplies for other students. These instances point to one of Maine’s greatest strengths as a state: we care about each other.
”I just didn’t want them to be embarrassed and stuff when they go into school and didn’t have the needed school supplies,” Ava Burke told WABI about her backpack efforts in August. “So, I just wanted them to feel confident.”
We’re confident that the generosity of Maine people can make a real difference to their neighbors, as it has throughout the pandemic. Good Shepherd Food Bank president Kristen Miale explained to the BDN that as her organization has increased its food budget and food donations during the pandemic, it has been buoyed by generous giving from Maine people.
“We are obviously seeing the needs going up, and our need to respond going up,” Miale said. “Fortunately, we are also seeing the generosity of Mainers has been strong and has kept up. That is good news so far.”
Miale was unsure if that level of giving will be sustainable in the coming months. We hope it will be for charitable organizations across the state.
Individual giving isn’t a substitute for much-needed action from the federal government in terms of more COVID-19 aid. But on Giving Tuesday and any other day, it can continue to make a difference.