Those who make a difference

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December is, by all accounts, the month for giving. People are giving and receiving gifts, thousands of charitable organizations are seeking funds to help others, businesses are contributing to worthy causes, and even police and fire departments participate in toy drives so that children who might not otherwise have a Christmas will have something under the tree.

This year, in Coweta and Fayette counties, the Marine Corps League, aided by a cadre of civilian volunteers, was able to provide two to three toys each to some 5,200 children locally. It is the season of giving.

Nationally, according to an article I read, most non-profit organizations receive a full one-third of their yearly income during the month of December. Americans are, as a whole, generous people. In my own church, I recently put out an email letting our folks know that, if they would like to help people who might find it difficult to have a good Christmas, we would be happy to use their gifts to accomplish that purpose. The money that we received in a week was six times what I had anticipated.

Over the last decade or so, I have been involved with the Marine Corps League and their three fund raisers each year. We raise money in the spring and fall to give to charities, usually veterans causes, supported by the League and, of course, we are heavily involved with Toys for Tots.

One of those local charities is Healing for Heroes, whose objective is to connect wounded service members, as well as those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, with A.D.A. compliant service dogs.

Another is Shepherd’s Men which focuses on treatment for military personnel who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) or post-911 Post Traumatic Distress Disorder (PSTD) and raises awareness and funds for the SHARE Military Initiative at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center.

Still another is the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, at Camp Lejeune, NC, which provides continuous, far-reaching leadership to wounded, ill, or seriously injured Marines and designated Sailors worldwide in order to ensure all wounded warriors and families successfully transition back to full duty or civilian life. And there are other charities the MCL supports as well. In 2019, we raised almost $20,000 locally.

And many people are generous. Usually, we set up at the local Wal-Marts and Sam’s Club to give people an opportunity to donate. There is never any pressure and people are not stopped or accosted in any way. Yet, through small donations, usually a couple of dollars or so at a time, hundreds of people participate and, together, make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who have been wounded, maimed, or traumatized by war.

Still, we are only one of hundreds or thousands of non-profits that seek funds to do good work. If people weren’t generous, most of these organizations would cease to exist.

Not everyone gives, of course. Some people go out of their way to avoid the Salvation Army bell ringers or the Toys for Tots tables, for example. Nevertheless, in 2017 Americans gave $410 billion and gave a whopping $427.71 billion in 2018 to charities. In 1980, charitable giving was about $150 billion. Each year, with few exceptions, the numbers have continued to increase.

Interestingly, according to Martin LaMonica, deputy editor of “The Conversation,” while more than two-thirds of Americans donated to charity in 2000, only 55.5 percent gave in 2014, according to ongoing research. This means than less Americans are giving but those who do are giving more. It would seem that fewer Americans are being generous but those who are, are bearing more and more of the load.

This fact is true in churches as well. Most pastors and priests are aware that the people who give the most are likely to be the people who also step up their giving in times of need or when special projects are announced. And, as in the nation, every church has far too many people who give sparingly, or they give nothing at all.

One would expect that those who have a lot, give a lot and those who have little, give little or nothing. But that is not always the case. Of the money raised each year by Toys for Tots locally, there are always a couple of hundred dollar bills in the pot, a few 50s, and a smattering of 20s.

Mostly, the donations come in $5, $10, or $20 gifts with the vast majority being a few dollars at a time. And many of the people who do give are not rich and often apologize for not have more to give. But, together, great things can be accomplished.

For those who are givers, I would simply like to express my thanks and appreciation. It may not seem like much when you write a check or give money here and there but it makes a great difference.

And, to my congregation, a personal word of gratitude: In the 23 years of our church, we have never missed a payment, never been behind on a bill, and we have always been able to give at least 10-15% of our income to causes beyond our own church. You did that. Together, you did that. I thank you for your faithfulness.

A word to the non-givers — you don’t know what you’re missing! It truly is, “more blessed to give than to receive.” The one regret in my life is that I don’t have more to give than I do. It sounds pious and self-righteous but it’s the simple truth.

So, join those who make a difference. Be among those who make an impact. In the coming year, determine to be a giver!

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 East, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]