On a local television newscast this week, Karen McGlinn, executive director of the Costa Mesa-based Share Our Selves (SOS) poverty relief nonprofit, said demand for assistance has jumped 50 percent since the beginning of the year. Heading into its 40th year--SOS was started in 1970 by a small group of parishioners at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa--the organization is struggling to meet the increased need.
Anyone who has looked at his/her 401k, checkbook or loan-rejection stack lately can sympathize with their being many more folks out there having a tough go trying to survive. But while the number of people needing help has grown considerably, so have the number of people opting into "purposeful giving." These neighbors are asking friends and family to forget giving them the usual birthday, wedding and holiday gifts this year and instead donate to those groups helping our most needy.
The Community Action Partnership of Orange County's Orange County Food Bank, which like SOS mobilizes resources to the impoverished, is capitalizing on this new gift-giving phenomenon with a campaign called "Hope for the Holidays" that was purposely launched during the official start of the holiday shopping season.
"We each know someone who has been impacted by the financial crisis," says Mark Lowry, the Food Bank's director. "This new reality has begun to inspire people to find creative and selfless ways to make a difference in the lives of people suffering hardship."
Among those people and creative ways:
* The parents of 5-year-old Max, who requested family and friends donate to a "Virtual Food Drive" instead of giving the boy the usual clothes and toys. They collected $1,871.
* Erica, who asked friends attending her 13th birthday party to bring cash gifts of $13 each. The girl, her little sister and mother then arrived at the Food Bank to hand over a pink paper bag with $105 inside.
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* Newlyweds who collected 95 pounds of donated food in lieu of the traditional gifts at their wedding.
* A Newport Beach resident who asked friends to donate to the Food Bank as a birthday gift to him, and collected $7,550.
* A Disney executive who had the Food Bank host a catered birthday party where guests donated $431, 470 pounds of food and enough volunteer labor to assemble 1,541 food boxes.
Lowry says the message he is hearing over and over these days is, "I may not have everything I want, but I have everything that I need. I can do something to help someone else who has too little."