Opinion | Susan Knopf: Charity begins at home
For the Record
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.
This is the time of year when we think of sharing with others. We have so many good groups doing so much good work here in Summit County. They need you so they can extend their reach, to help those who have never before sought assistance. Be a lamp and light the way for others to follow.
Locals Cheri Breeman and Lisa White work to uplift the Navajo along with Native American Marykatherine Smith. Jefferson Geiger highlighted their work in the Summit Daily News. They supply water, Depends, food, laundry soap, a vehicle to deliver supplies to the remote areas where folks live, and the gas to get there. It’s financed through GoFundMe. Breeman also purchased seven solar units so families will have power to refrigerate food. More are needed.
White is also concerned about the needs right here in Summit County.
“One-third of the people in this county can’t afford the basics,” she said.
“(The resource center) is the safety net for Summit County families,” Executive Director Brianne Snow said.
That’s never been more true.
“In the first three months of the pandemic, (the center) provided the same amount of services we provide in a normal year,” Snow said.
She added that she’s grateful our community answered the need. She told me it’s that community generosity that keeps her going through these difficult days.
The impact of so much need creates depression and anxiety. Building Hope connects people with needed mental health services. Building Hope also partners with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team. The team pairs deputies and mental health workers to deescalate situations, keep people who need emotional support out of jail and get them the help they need.
I work with the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council, and we’ve just concluded our fifth successful Thanksgiving To-Go program, which provided grocery gift cards to more than 400 families in need. We partner with area congregations and service clubs to feed the hungry and provide overnight parking for working homeless in Summit County.
The Summit Foundation helps so many organizations in our town. It gives $4 million a year to our community. The Summit Foundation supports Building Hope, Peak Health Alliance (where I got my insurance), Mountain Scholars and many others.
The biggest issue for me when I’m considering donating is knowing the money will get to those who need it. This time of year, our mailboxes are crammed with solicitations. According to NPR’s “Marketplace,” Children’s Hospital Los Angeles claims to make 100% on every dollar it spends on direct mail.
My biggest pet peeve are the charities that send me gifts.
One charity claiming to serve the Native American community sent me a dream catcher and a pair of socks, and another sent me a necklace. If you check out these charities trading on native poverty, you find a disproportionate percentage goes to fundraising and administration. The charitable goods that are distributed are often out-of-date junk food and other unsolicited aid that doesn’t really help anyone.
American Indian Services claims to be one of four native American charities with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator is my go-to when I research a charity. For 19 years, it has evaluated the accounting practices, transparency, ethics and programs of charities.
American Indian Services reportedly spends 87% of its donations on programming and just 12% on administration and fundraising. Those are good numbers. I always look for charities that devote at least 80% of funds to programming, and no more than 20% to administration and fundraising.
The Native American Heritage Association, First Nations Development Institute and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society also made the Charity Navigator four-star list. The Native American Heritage Association and First Nations report they spend more than 80% of their donations on programming.
Even if you can’t write a check, you can still help, Snow said. Perhaps take some soup to a neighbor? People need your help. This year you can be Santa for someone in need.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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