Editorial How to help ease the pain of strangers

December 16, 2018

Year’s end is always a time to reflect on the big questions.

Who are we? Who do we want to be?

It can be challenging to tune into the right frequency amid all the static of the blaring lures trying to tell us what we want.

These days, the distraction of that static is amplified by the drone of our national political discourse.

Who are we as a nation? What do we want to be?

In each case, we maintain that our definition of self is a reflection of our treatment of others.

How do we look upon the homeless? The hungry? The elderly? The disabled?

Do we look away? Do we reach out a hand, offer food, lend emotional support?

The Giving Fund is our annual appeal to readers to help neighbors in our communities whose distress is not always visible. The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time launched the initiative 35 years ago. It remains a simple concept. We share short stories about local people in distress and invite financial contributions from readers. Caseworkers from local nonprofits identify needs of their clients, who are unaware they have been nominated.

A decade ago, the campaign expanded throughout the Hearst Connecticut Media Group to include the Connecticut Post, The News-Times and The Norwalk Hour. Those cases are collected by nonprofits Family Centers and Person to Person for the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time; United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and LifeBridge of Bridgeport for The Connecticut Post; the United Way of Western Connecticut for The News-Times; and the Family & Children’s Agency of Norwalk for The Norwalk Hour.

These are not gifts you’ll see pitched on smartphone and broadcast ads. They are wishes to cover obstacles such as rent payments and child care costs. Every dollar donated to the Giving Fund goes directly to the clients in need.

Bob Arnold, who has served as CEO of Family Centers since 1982, has noticed that donations to the Giving Fund tend to shift with the economy, but not in the way you might expect.

“I’ve been fascinated by the Giving Fund all these years because the years when the economy was down, people were giving more,” Arnold said. “I think people are sensitized to need when they get a little close to it themselves.”

Regardless of the direction of the economy, he says “the population of need is always there.”

That’s due to the reality that any life can be changed with a diagnosis, an injury or a lost job.

This year’s Advocate/Greenwich Time campaign is struggling, with donations far below past years, when collections traditionally exceeded $50,000.

If you’re looking for some small way to contribute, consider pitching in loose change collected during this shopping season, or passing the hat with co-workers, classmates or friends. If someone asks what you would like as a gift, consider requesting a donation in your name.

Yes, the Giving Fund is another holiday lure. It is also proof. Proof that strangers will help one another. Proof of who you are.

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