---- — The people of the United States have long been the most charitable in the world. Whether the holiday tsunami that devastated the South Pacific several years ago or the nation's overwhelming response to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy last fall, Americans have always answered the call.
According to charitynavigator.org's statistics on giving, Americans donated nearly $300 billion to charities in 2011, an increase of 4 percent over the previous year. Since 1971, total giving has increased in all but three years; two of those years were in 2008 and 2009, when the economic downturn began.
But now it has come roaring back and individual donors are leading the way. Charitynavigator says that nine out of 10 donations are made by individuals rather than corporations or businesses.
That is no more evident than it is right here in the Susquehanna Valley.
Last week the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way announced it will be investing $908,000 to support community programs in Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties. The First Community Foundation Partnership turned a new venture, Raise the Region, into a huge success, bringing in $835,000 thanks to more than 4,300 gifts to local nonprofit groups.
Those are staggering numbers and a true testament to the values we hold dear in the Susquehanna Valley. The money will now go to programs and organizations that survive and thrive off of this generous giving.
In turn, the people of the region who need the help the most will benefit from these funds.
Raise the Region will distribute its money to 161 nonprofits that took part in a day of giving last month.
But that day, organizers said, was more than just raising money. "It helped bring awareness to the great work being done by a number of great organizations," said Jennifer Wilson, President and CEO of FCFP.
The United Way's donations will be used to fund programs which address early childhood education, drug and alcohol abuse and at-risk teens, which are among its six Priorities for Impact.
Unemployment in the Valley is higher than the national average, but that has not stopped us from dipping into our own pockets to help neighbors across the region.
It is another reason why it is great to live here, where generosity is seen around every corner and there is always a hand held out, offering help, if needed.