Yes, it’s a time of giving. But it needs to last throughout the year | Lloyd E. Sheaffer

December 20, 2019 6:30 am

The end is near.

No, I do not mean the cataclysmic Apocalypse; I am referring to the end of the secular Christmas season.

Lloyd E. Sheaffer (Capital-Star file)

Since autumn leaves began floating from limb to lawn, we have been inundated with Christmas shopping advertisements in our newspapers and on our many media screens; before the smoke from extinguished Jack-O-Lantern candles dissipated, several local radio stations started broadcasting Christmas music 24/7.

Also coming to an end is the deluge of December pleadings from myriad charities, large and small, seeking to capitalize on the guilt engendered generosity of many folks during this “season of giving.”

For instance, in the last two weeks I have received three end-of-the-year pleas from the March of Dimes, and my wife received one, despite—or maybe because of—our having donated to the organization earlier this year.

Trying to decide which of these charities to support can be a daunting task. In an earlier piece I explained how we address the matter in our household. Essentially we extend “Christmas giving” to continue throughout the 12 months of the year.

Some of these “charitable organizations” flooding mailboxes in December are little more than scams playing on emotions. For instance, the Cancer Fund of America, one of the worst offenders, returns on 2.5 percent of the millions it collects to fund research and offer support of cancer patients. Thus, due diligence is an essential part of choosing which groups to support.

However, many of the charitable institutions are worthy of support now and throughout the year. At this time it is particularly important to support these groups, since the current administration in Washington continues to snip away at the mesh of safety net programs designed to promote and maintain the health and safety of more than 38 million U.S. citizens living in poverty.

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An inescapable challenge for the 12 percent of the US population living in impoverishment is the shortage of adequate healthful food. Feeding America, a national charity that returns 99 percent of its donations to its mission to ease hunger in the country, reports that 37 million people, including more than 11 million children, go hungry every day.

Its report states, “Even in the world’s greatest food-producing nation, children and adults face poverty and hunger in every county across America.”

According to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

And this situation likely will become more reprehensible in upcoming months.

The White House has dictated a change to U.S. Department of Agriculture rules that will remove nearly 700,000 people from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonely known as food stamps) as early as April 1, 2020.

Not only will this edict add to the poverty and hunger matters, it will wreak negative consequences on other citizens. “… taking people who are unemployed off SNAP often does harm to more than just those who directly receive food assistance.

Many of these people share their benefits with their family and social networks, including children and elderly family members. The ripple effects of the planned cuts will hurt this larger group of people too,” writes Professor Maggie Dickinson in The Atlantic.

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Impending proposed budget cuts impact the lives of those in need of assistance in myriad other ways.  Health care, housing, home heating—all would become more expensive for those who can afford it least. The banners may read America First; clearly it does not mean Americans first, at least poor Americans.

Thank goodness for laudable private charities such as the American Cancer Society and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute because government funding for health and science research is on the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue chopping block.

According to the Washington Post, “[The National Institutes of Health] would face a roughly $4.5 billion budget cut, according to an [U.S. Health & Human Services Department] document. Among the big losers, if Congress were to sign off on the budget request, would be the National Cancer Institute, dropping from $6.1 billion to $5.2 billion, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, going from $5.5 billion to $4.75 billion.”

The negative effects of such reduced research funding will impact not just those living in hunger and poverty but all economic levels of our population.

Don’t get sick.

A widely accepted truth is that a budget reflects the values of an institution, a company, a charity, a household.

Budgets presented by the MAGAmaniac during his term clearly do not represent the traditional values of our compassionate, generous nation.

Four score and seven years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Our well heeled government heads have veered away from such a tenet.

These grave problems confronting our society at this time are not just end-of-the-year issues; they are constant struggles for all of us year round.

As has become all too common, attacking these matters falls upon us individuals and on our local non-profits and charities if we are serious about lifting our poor neighbors from the clutches of hunger and illness and homelessness. Certainly the principled big named organizations need our continuing support.

I suggest, though, that we all offer monthly support for our reliable local non-profits to provide more immediate support of those in need.

The Central PA Food Bank, Project SHARE, Bethesda Mission, New Hope Ministries, the Hamilton Health Center, Community CARES, New Digs Ministry, M28 Ministries, Capitol Area Coalition on Homelessness — these, among others, are a few reputable local agencies that need on-going financial and volunteer support to serve those in need. By springtime many of these hand-to-mouth operating non-profits will have used up their Christmas-time donations and will need further contributions.

Don’t let them fail.

Thirteen percent of Dauphin County residents are food insecure. More than 102 families in the Carlisle region of Cumberland County are homeless.  Some 10.3% of the people in York County live below the poverty level. We must take action now.

The end of the year is approaching. I hope all of us begin 2020 with resolutions to work to end these social iniquities which the current administration seems loathe to resolve.

Finally, as Dahanne Stokes opines, “Leaders who do not help the people must be replaced by the people.” Take that as you will.

May we all live generously throughout the new year.

Capital-Star Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, of North Middleton Township, Pa., is a retired English and Humanities teacher, whose work appears monthly. Readers may contact him at [email protected].

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Lloyd E. Sheaffer
Lloyd E. Sheaffer

Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].