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It’s only January, but the season of giving already seems like a distant memory. Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend the holidays for a few more weeks or months? Imagine if “the most wonderful time of the year” spanned all 12 months.

The Blackbaud Index, which measures charitable giving, issued a report in November noting that donations spike in the fall, when nonprofits schedule many of their appeals and fundraisers. This is proof that when Americans are asked to give, we give. Unfortunately, there aren’t bell-ringers outside department stores in April. There isn’t a Giving Tuesday in August. For most of the year, we aren’t being reminded of our neighbors who need our help.

If we were to take a vote, families in need would surely be in favor of a longer holiday season. And I’m lucky to work with a team that has a daily impact on the lives of North Carolinians, many of them struggling with poverty. I see constant reminders of the desperation felt by so many families, people who are trying to stretch every dollar and every meal.

I also see the generosity of North Carolinians every day. I know better than most that the people of our state are genuinely concerned about the welfare of their neighbors.

The overall poverty rate in North Carolina is almost 18% – among children, it’s 26%. Last year, a Brookings Institution report named four North Carolina metro areas – Winston-Salem, Greensboro-High Point, Raleigh and Charlotte – among the Top 10 in the nation for both growth in the poor population and growth of poor neighborhoods. The need for charity isn’t confined to far-away places that we rarely see, it’s right where we live.

Being charitable doesn’t mean we have to completely rearrange our lives or make long-term commitments. There are a lot of simple ways we can give to others. Pick one per month and put a reminder on your calendar. In this age of hyper connectivity, there’s no excuse.

  • Donate clothing instead of throwing it away. You can find local donation bin locations online.
  • Next time you’re shopping at the supermarket, pick up an extra bag of groceries and drop it off at a local soup kitchen.
  • Have your kids abandoned last year’s toys in favor of the recent gifts from Santa Claus? Bring the “misfit toys” to a local donation center.
  • Volunteer a few hours toward a cause you support.
  • Participate in a fundraising walk.

Poverty is indifferent to the calendar. It doesn’t care what day of the week it is or what the weather is like. To combat poverty, our sense of charity can’t be seasonal either. Any money we donate in the fall buys the same amount of groceries in the spring; the handful of hours we volunteer in December can have the same positive impact in March.

We have a great capacity to give, so let’s give to capacity.

[Top image: Shutterstock]

Kathy Higgins

About Kathy Higgins

Kathy Higgins is the vice president of corporate affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), overseeing all corporate communications and community initiatives. In addition to her corporate duties, she serves as president of the company’s independent charitable foundation, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, and has led unprecedented growth, including the strategic investment of more than $110 million into North Carolina communities through more than 900 grants to improve the health of vulnerable populations, support physical activity and nutrition programs, and help nonprofit groups improve their organizational capacity. Among her many honors and distinctions, she has been named both an Eisenhower Fellow and Fulbright Senior Scholar, for which she was selected to study health care and philanthropy in New Zealand and Australia.

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