— Originally published in FLL#36
Charity isn’t selective. It doesn’t pick and choose its contributors. Its heart pumps from the donations and volunteers who supply the proverbial red and white blood cells on which it continuously beats. It thrives on a steady influx of donations in order to give out needed goods and services to the public; pure and simple. It knows no religion, race, or gender; only people in need. Charity doesn’t sleep, doesn’t make excuses, and rarely says no. It aids the homeless, the jobless, the special needs, the drug addict, the hungry family, the hopeless veteran, the depressed elderly, the high school mother, and the academic hopeful. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Charity acts range from building a house to a smile and a cup of coffee on a cold afternoon. However big or small the acts, they bring comfort, shelter, and education. They help to heal a broken heart, a broken body, or a broken dream. And, their gift is more precious and cherished than the most valued treasure in the world.
The act of charitable giving has graced our shores for hundreds of years and continues today with a need that can cripple a home, a town, or a country. Thousands of people who have remained nameless and faceless have given their time, their talents, and their love to those who cannot care for themselves. Ordinary people giving extraordinary love to strangers they have never met before. The word charity comes from the French word charite which, in turn, is derived from the Latin word caritas meaning preciousness, dearness, and unconditional love for others. That unconditional love is needed not just during the holiday season. Charities require year-round assistance and the need never subsides. It is constant, demanding, and, in some cases, life or death.
Lancaster County gives open-armed hugs to charities all year round and has been serving the needs of its citizens for hundreds of years. During the late 1700s The Lancaster County Almshouse, also known as The Lancaster County Poor and House of Employment, was built with the intent for several public assistance functions. However, it was mainly involved with the social control of poor citizens who suffered severe poverty and is currently involved in charities such as the United Way, whose core of commitment is to build a stronger Lancaster County by mobilizing the caring power of its community. Charity has never waned in its commitment to assist those in need.
So, how do we keep the charitable feeling all year long? How does one navigate the charitable waters so that both time and money are planned and distributed in a manageable way? For those who simply cannot give their time, money is a welcomed option. Personal and business donations can be based on a one-time, monthly, or yearly contribution. For those who do have time to volunteer, there are endless opportunities of all kinds which benefit these organizations. Charities conduct daily, weekly, and yearly classes, as well as events and symposiums to educate, involve, and inform. The need for help is always present.
A good place to begin is charitiescharities.org. It lists all the charities in Pennsylvania by town. Lancaster offers many charities to choose from on the site, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by so many choices, perhaps you should start with larger local charities such as Water Street Ministries, YWCA, YMCA, United Way, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Schreiber Pediatric, Central PA Food Bank, Red Cross, or the Make A Wish Foundation.
Here are just a few of some of the annual charity events that might stir the volunteer spirit in you, and locally:
- The United Way of Lancaster County holds several events during the year, including its Day of Caring, their annual kickoff campaign. Volunteers assist with a variety of community projects. This event is typically held on the Friday and Saturday following Labor Day. Learn more at www.uwlanc.org.
- Make A Wish Foundation gives a special meaning to Mother’s Day with their Truck Convoy of over 300 trucks carrying children with lifethreatening medical conditions to make their special wishes come true. Volunteers are needed to help with food and other duties. This is truly an inspirational volunteer opportunity. Check out their website at www.philasv.wish.org.
- The Central PA Food Bank hosts the Taste of Lancaster County each spring. If you are a foodie, this is the event for your volunteer talents. Local restaurants provide attendees with samples of their signature dishes. There are also local wineries and breweries featuring their beverages. There is live entertainment, a raffle, and silent auction. Read more about this delicious event at www.centralpafoodbank.org.
- The American Cancer Society holds several Relay for Life events during the year and they are always in need of volunteers. Teams of people take turns walking around a local track to raise funds. Volunteers to assist with the food, games, and other activities are welcomed. Go to www.cancer.org.
- The American Heart Association Heart Walk is held each fall. Individuals and teams from all over the county walk to raise funds for this organization. It is a fun day filled with many volunteer opportunities. Learn more at www.heartwalk.org.
- Schreiber Pediatric holds their Rubber Duckie Race and Festival each fall. Folks can enjoy food, pony rides, and games. The highlight of the day is watching the Rubber Duckie Race which features 20,000 ducks floating down the Conestoga River. If you enjoy being outdoors, this is a great event to volunteer at. Go to www.schreiberpediatric.org.
A charitable heart knows no time limits or boundaries. A giving year is in each of us. We all have been in a place at some point in our lives where we have required assistance from someone. The world continues to create a hardship for those already struggling with their day to day pain and suffering. It is our responsibility as human beings to ensure that no one is left behind, that no one is forgotten, and that no one is ignored. To give is to receive. So, give a dollar, give an hour, give a day, give a year, or give a lifetime. It is truly a good and charitable thing to do.