Year-round remembrance

“People were in the mood,” remarked a representative of the Salvation Army in a Reporter article on holiday charitable giving. Most of us expect people to be in the giving mood around the holidays. In fact, for many non-profit and volunteer organizations providing assistance to those in need it is the time of year when they receive their largest influx of donations.

Despite a significant increase in requests for assistance and a decrease in giving on some fronts this holiday season, I’m sure this was probably the case for most of these organizations again this year.

While giving during the holidays is great, as we settle into the busy routines of a new year, I wonder how we might keep this charitable spirit year round.

Despite indications that the economy is recovering from the severe recession we’ve been experiencing, there remains a high level of need in our community year round.

Even more so, it seems, than in past years.

According to a Small Area Income and Poverty article, the poverty rate in Shelby County increased between 2008 and 2009. Another report by the National Alliance to End Homeless indicates there has been about a 3 percent increase in homelessness in the United States during this period as well.

No doubt this trend continues, given the relatively high rate of unemployment and foreclosures.

Although we have made some progress on reforming health insurance, health care continues to be too costly and inaccessible for many. And for those of us who do have access, it is the leading cause of bankruptcy.

These continuing health care issues have devastating consequences for individuals’ lives, their productivity and the economy. After giving this some thought there are several ways that I will try to live charitably year round. Like many of you, I will continue to volunteer and make donations when I can of money and things I no longer need to those who can use them.

However, the most important ways I will try to live with compassion and charity is to support those who are developing policies and programs to eliminate the root causes of poverty and empower those in need, particularly those working to expand access to good quality education and healthcare as well as truly affordable housing. Here’s to giving year round through engaged citizenship.

Kimberly Barrett is vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo.