December 26, 2020

Like so many events and celebrations over the past nine months, the holidays are looking very different this year. And while we may continue to be separated by distance for a while longer, this year has proven that compassion and caring refuse to be canceled even by a pandemic.

This year has been rife with divisions, but our Eastern Jackson County community has shown its unity through an outpouring of compassion and caring. When the stay-at-home orders were instated, we witnessed the selfless commitment of our frontline workers in healthcare, grocery stores and other businesses deemed essential. Our social service nonprofits sprang into action to ramp up their services to meet the increased need, reconfiguring the delivery of those services to keep their staff and volunteers safe. Teachers in our community rose to the challenge and quickly mastered virtual learning. Our school districts developed new systems to keep their food insecure students fed when they were not coming to school. Shelters like Hope House engineered a new housing model, using hotel rooms when they could not safely house battered women in their facilities. These are just a few examples of the outpouring of compassion and caring we’ve seen in our community this year.

Helping others is empowering and allows us to maintain and strengthen the connections that we care about. During these months of uncertainty and social distancing, charitable giving has offered a unique and enhanced connection to the community. So, it is no surprise that as I write this column, your Community Foundation is approaching $5 million in grants to nonprofits in 2020, a new record for giving.

The 2020 charitable giving story is obviously still being written. For many nonprofits, the holiday season is a critical time of the year for charitable giving. As my last column noted, a study commissioned by the Nonprofit Alliance and RKD Group in October reported that while 77 percent of donors said they had already given as much or more this year than all of last year, 36 percent said they plan to give more in December 2020 than they did in December 2019, and 44 percent said they plan to give the same amount. This is truly encouraging news.

The vaccines are being deployed to do their work, but we must continue to wear a mask, wash our hands and social distance to finally defeat COVID-19. And even though we are experiencing COVID fatigue, I know that by responding with compassion and caring our community will continue to recover.

Our community is blessed to be filled with kind, generous individuals and businesses. Indeed, Eastern Jackson County would be a very different community without this philanthropic support. I hope during this holiday season you get the opportunity to reflect and find comfort and joy knowing there are thousands of stories of compassion and caring being written in our community. These stories will be a source of pride once we are able gain some perspective on our community’s response to the pandemic.

I know that we are all ready to say goodbye to 2020, but I am encouraged and inspired by the amazing ways our community has come together to make a difference this year. Stay safe, stay healthy and Happy New Year!

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Truman Heartland Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through partnerships with donors and community members. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816-836-8189.