2020 Fitzgerald: Readers go above and beyond with Give A Christmas generosity

Dear Readers, you really know how to Give A Christmas.

Thank you.

On this Christmas Day, we want to celebrate your generosity, your kindness and your heartfelt donations that come at a time when so many people are in need like they’ve never been before.

This is the 63rd year of Give A Christmas for the Bucks County Courier Times and the 33rd year for The Intelligencer. It’s safe to say that our readers have completely outdone themselves in this most tumultuous of years.

When our partners at the Bucks County Opportunity Council (The Intelligencer) and the Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club (Courier Times) got together with us, we honestly didn’t know what to expect.

We had an inkling it might be a pretty good year because it seemed like the giving trend was up for many of the local nonprofits during this horrible pandemic. We weren’t about to take that for granted because if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that what is expected isn’t necessarily how it’s going to turn out.

We decided to keep our goals the same as last year ($120,000 for the Courier, $140,000 for The Intelligencer) based on recent trends the past few years, hoping that we would be able to reach them.

With donations being accepted for another 2½ weeks, it’s likely we are going to surpass $200,000 in both papers (insert mind-blowing emoji here). As of Tuesday afternoon, Intelligencer readers had donated nearly $181,000, and Courier Times readers more than $151,000. That does not include another $50,000 presented to each fund this week — more on that below.

In scrolling on our websites through the list of contributors for The Intelligencer and the Courier Times, it was touching to see the notes left behind in tribute to loved ones or in appreciation to the good others are doing. It’s very personal to make such a meaningful donation, whether it’s $5 or $50,000.So many of you come back year after year and just make it part of your Christmas To-Do List.

The totals include $25,000 from the Francis J. Raab Foundation, led by David Creamer. And the totals also account for $104,527 that came in response to a matching pledge from local philanthropists Gene and Marlene Epstein, who committed to matching every donation of $500 or more through Dec. 16, up to $50,000 a piece for both funds.

Creamer’s Francis J. Raab Foundation is a grant-making organization that benefits veterans and people struggling under difficult circumstances. The foundation annually makes a sizable donation to The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas.

“I do a lot of research into the causes and organizations we consider supporting, and the good news about Give A Christmas and the Bucks County Opportunity Council is that the money is really being used to help people locally,” Creamer recently told correspondent Chris Ruvo.

Every donation makes a difference, big and small. But I am going to give a big shout-out to Gene and Marlene Epstein and their leadership. They challenged contributors to give a little more than maybe they would have by setting the bar the Epsteins would match at $500. The response, honestly, has left me breathless.

Gene wrote me on Dec. 11: “You have no idea how thrilled I am seeing people and companies sending in their checks to meet our challenge. We all have to chip in to help those that need it the most or else what good are we? Thank you and all involved.”

At the end of every email Gene Epstein sends, he includes the quote, “Ask yourself daily ‘What can I do to make someone’s life better today?’ ”

Gene comes from humble beginnings and made his money in the car business. Even when his family wasn’t wealthy, they believed in the spirit of giving and reaching out to those less fortunate.

I’ve received emails from Gene at 3 a.m. with an idea that he thinks might better our community in some way, shape or form. This isn’t a one-and-done show of leadership. He has come to live this 24/7/365, determined to leave the world a better place than he found it.

He and Marlene know they can’t do it alone and want to bring all of us along for the joyous ride they are on by doing better by others.

Our news organizations are humbled the Epsteins and the Creamers and all of you have trusted us and our partners at the Bucks County Opportunity Council, the Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club and the Keystone Opportuntiy Center to distribute this significant amount of charity.

This remains a significant time of need, and we still have a long stretch of road to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The Bucks County Opportunity Council, the Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club and Keystone do work year round to help the community that significantly bolsters people in need. Money raised beyond the Christmas season goes into programs that help those efforts.

Plenty of time remains to give. Details are on Page A2 in our print products and on our websites for the Courier Times and The Intelligencer.

Again, thanks to our readers this year. You’ve really outdone yourselves. Be proud of what your are accomplishing as a community. We need more random acts of kindness than ever before.

Shane Fitzgerald is Executive Editor of the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer and is the state editor for the 14 Pennsylvania publications in the USA Today Network. Email: sfitzgerald@couriertimes.com or sfitzgerald@theintell.com.


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