By Shane Fitzgerald:
This is a milestone year for our Give A Christmas program. It’s been 30 years for The Intelligencer, 60 years for the Bucks County Courier Times and 50 years for the Burlington County Times and together, the papers and — most importantly our readers — have raised significant money mostly through small donations. We celebrate our readers by recognizing them in our publications.
I am amazed, year after year, how generous these communities have been. Time and time again, when needs come up, residents show compassion through their wallets.
Give A Christmas strikes me right in the chest. The way the money is distributed helps families, in most cases with children under 17, in a way that meets a need. Sometimes, it provides a gift for kids who might not get one. Other times, it helps pay the utility or food bills. And it’s not just about Christmas. It helps anyone in need, regardless of their faith or politics.
We live in an amazing area and are so fortunate to have all that we do. Not everyone has the same resources and opportunities and often people get in a bad place through no fault of their own.
It hits me hard because my family needed public assistance when I was in elementary school, as my parents split and my father had his demons with substance abuse.
I was shocked that people simply gave money and food to people who were in a tough situation like ours. My mom explained to me as a 7-year-old and my three younger siblings how important it was that other people helped us when we were down on our luck. That type of help gave my mom a better chance to finish college. She was successful, made herself a role model to me to make sure I graduated from college, and she got us to a place we didn’t need the help that others could use.
It also taught me about the positive in others. And I have tried to live my life in a way to pay it forward. I thank John Van Eps, my junior high school choir teacher (I can’t sing a lick, by the way) for extolling upon me and my classmates that the most important thing we can do is give back time, energy and money, in that order.
Many people have it much tougher than I did when I was a child. And I know how much my family appreciated the help.
The Intelligencer partners with the Bucks County Opportunity Council to collect and distribute monetary donations. The average family receiving help has an annual income of around $14,000. Intelligencer readers, since 1988, have supported the Give A Christmas fund with heart-felt generosity, but expenses have been greater than income for the past few years. That means our charitable partners received eligible requests for assistance from families in need that exceeded the money the newspapers collected. This year, we set a goal of $140,000 to help those in need.
So as you’re charting out your holiday charity giving this season, we ask you to consider our Give A Christmas fund. Except for credit card fee costs, every dollar you give goes into the program, and our newspapers and partners cover administrative costs. Every little bit helps. Have a great holiday season, and I hope part of the season being great for you includes the gift of giving.
Shane Fitzgerald is executive editor of The Intelligencer Bucks County (Pa.) Courier-Times, and the Burlington County (N.J.) Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sfitzg5.