The holiday season always saves the best part for last – the giving. This year has brought fresh confirmation of how generous south-central Kansans are toward neighbors in need, embodying the Christmas spirit as they offer cash, food, clothing, toys, time and hope to others.
The charity, and the gladness with which it’s provided, has been a joy to witness.
The good deeds have come in all sizes, like the coats that were donated throughout the year to be distributed in recent days through Operation Holiday.
Some efforts are as huge as the 250-strong Friends University contingent that showed up as usual last week to unload, sort, assemble and otherwise help ready the thousands of presents for distribution as part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.
Some big acts of charity come from singular sources. There is the anonymous donor who will match contributions (up to $100,000) to help the Salvation Army meet the $1.8 million goal of its Mission of Hope campaign by the end of the month. Then there’s the familiar “Secret Santa” who gave gold coins worth $1,400 each, via the Wichita Community Foundation, to the Lord’s Diner, the Center of Hope and Guadalupe Clinic.
Other efforts are as spontaneous and focused as the one by K-9 Karma Animal Advocates, which is raising money to aid a dedicated volunteer whose house was damaged by fire while she was rescuing an injured dog.
Donors to the Share the Season campaign have been plentiful as well, no doubt touched by the daily articles in The Eagle depicting applicants’ struggles to pay bills and otherwise find a bridge to better times. Contributions still can be made to Share the Season, which also involves the Wichita Community Foundation and the Salvation Army.
None of this should be surprising, and it isn’t. A report released last week by the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Kansas fourth in the nation for its volunteerism, noting that 36.4 percent of the state’s residents pitched in last year – 808,000 volunteers and 82.9 million hours of service. Only Utah, Minnesota and Idaho were more generous with their time.
The holiday outpouring also is in keeping with the scale of the need, of course. One sobering measure of the lingering impact of the recession came with the recent news that the Kansas Food Bank has been handing out 6,565 backpacks of food to low-income schoolchildren on Fridays in and around Wichita, 213 more than a year ago.
This December has seen its share of mail thefts, seasonal scams and other ugliness, too. But it’s the selfless acts that stand out.
“We get way more back than we give,” Friends University president T.J. Arant said of his school’s service day for the Salvation Army.
That’s the funny and wonderful thing about charity, and one of the best blessings of this season.