Baby, It's Cold Outside
Friday - March 7, 2014
By Rav Julius Rabinowitz
I recently came across a study of the charitable gift-giving propensities of upper middle- and upper-income Americans. What caught my eye was a chart that showed that there were wildly differing amounts that were given for people on the same income level, both on a percentage basis and an absolute basis, which appeared to be dependent on the location of their residence.
At first, I surmised that this might be a red-state/blue state phenomenon. But as I looked closer I didn’t observe any such breakdown, as for example, seeing that the percentages seemed to be all over the place for similar income levels in Texas, New York, Nebraska and Connecticut. As I plowed (I couldn’t resist the use of this verb between snowstorms) through the article, I came across a surprising finding: those who lived in an area in which there were very few low income or poor residents, gave significantly less in charity – again on both absolute and percentage terms, than those who lived in somewhat close proximity to others having lesser income levels. Thus, the author concluded that those who are exposed to the less fortunate in our society are more likely to be charitable than those whose everyday lives do not expose them to those in need.
What this study found was that an everyday reminder that there are people in need appeared to drive one's overall giving propensity. Of course, this should not be so earth-shattering: in every analysis of gift-giving propensities that I came across, the most important force that drove a person's giving was the awareness of a specific need; for of course, if one doesn't know that a specific charity needed help, why would one think of giving to that charity.
As I pondered this statistic, I was wondering how much poverty I was exposed to on an everyday basis. Sure, like all of you, my mailbox is filled with requests, especially in December when we are supposedly being motivated by the tax-reducing consequence of our giving. (What, people don't reduce their taxes when they give in January?) But aside from the mailbox stuffers, how often am I exposed to real poverty when I travel from my home in my car to my workplace and then back in my car as I shuttle home. And is your life that much different? And if it's not, what is my responsibility to elevating your awareness?
I decided to conduct research in this "awareness" element and came across some not-so-intuitive conclusions. For example, while awareness of need is a first prerequisite for philanthropy, people have to become aware of a need for support. Generally speaking, the degree of need for help is positively related to the likelihood that help will be given, but awareness alone is not enough. For example, an experimental study tested for effects of watching a telethon and found a positive effect on attitudes toward disabled people, but not on the amount of donations given.
On the other hand, knowing a victim, however, also promotes giving to other victims to whom the potential donor is not exposed directly. Indeed, focus groups show that donors cite knowing a (potential) beneficiary as a motive for charitable contributions. Survey studies suggest that awareness of need is increased when people know potential beneficiaries of a charitable organization. People who have relatives suffering from a specific illness are more likely to give to charities fighting those illnesses.
Awareness of need may also be increased by solicitors for charitable contributions informing potential donors about the needs of victims. Perhaps that's where I come in.
I look at how horrible these last few weeks of winter have been for us. In addition to the usual bone-shattering cold, we have been inundated with what seems to be record-amounts of snowfall -- or do we say that every winter? I hope that everybody in our community has been able to weather the storms and to continue to provide warmth when you are able to closet yourself indoors.
But there are many who have been struggling to continue to obtain their everyday energy needs to provide them with even minimal levels of warmth this winter. And the reality is that with the continuing effects of the recession and the sky high prices being commanded by the energy sources used to generate home heating, there are many who are struggling to meet this winter's challenges.
I should have brought this reality to your attention earlier in the season; but the fact is that it is still extremely cold and no one is going to be out of the woods for some time to come. So, while people are sometime creative in finding post hoc excuses for not giving, I'm hoping that you will not use the "the season is almost over" excuse to not give.
Information about single victims is more vivid and more emotionally distressing than information about multiple, unidentified victims. While our community appears to be fortunate in preventing my being able to frame the need for contributions by identifying a specific victim, my fellow Norwich clergy are not so lucky and they shared individual stories with me at the most recent Interfaith meeting.
So what can you do? Well, there are funds administered by the State that are available resources for those needing assistance in meeting their fuel energy needs, and more information about these funds can be found at the following website operated by the United Way.
But if you don't mind, I'd like to highlight a different fund for you to help. I'm sure that virtually all of you may be aware of this resource and I'm sorry that I was uninformed about it until recently. The Norwich Area Clergy Fund is a fund that is operated by the Norwich Area Clergy Association. Unlike the fund operated by the United Way, this fund is dedicated to those needing heating assistance that live in the Norwich community. Moreover, the Norwich clergy members screen Norwich residents requesting assistance to ensure that they have exhausted all other state resources (LIHEAP, Operational Fuel and Project Warm Up). The maximum contribution that the fund can make is $200.00 per family household.
The need at this time is extremely great: As of the end of last week, the balance in the fund was $788.05, barely enough to be able to help about four Norwich households at this time.
Thus, for those of you reading this column in the warmth of your homes or offices, consider the nameless person that you don't know who is huddling under a stack of blankets; and seriously consider opening up your checkbook at this time and make a donation to this fuel fund, payable to the Norwich Area Clergy Association, and mail it to the treasurer: Jillian Corbin, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Place, at 120 Cliff Street, Norwich CT 06360.
I know I will.
Rav Julius Rabinowitz is the Spiritual Leader of Beth Jacob Synagogue, Norwich, CT, and is reprinted with permission from the March 2014 issue of the Synagogue’s VOICE publication.
St. Vincent de Paul Place | 12:31 PM
Thank you, Home Depot!
Thursday - March 6, 2014
We'd like to thank Home Depot for donating their materials and labor to fix the peeling walls in the women's restroom and hallway! The volunteers who assisted with the project are:
Chris Kaminski (project manager)
Mike Vollero (store manager)
The project included:
Taping off the walls, covering the floors, scraping down the walls, spackling the walls, spraying down the walls once a day to cure the spackle, prime walls, and paint the walls.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
St. Vincent de Paul Place | 1:52 PM
Get With the B.E.A.T. Program
Thursday - March 6, 2014
There will be an informational session for the out of school youth as a part of the "Get With The B.E.A.T. Program" on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 from 10 a.m. to noon.
The meeting will be held at CT Works, 113 Salem Turnpike, North Building, Suite 200 (the building at the back of the McDonald's Plaza off 395, exit 80) in Norwich, CT.
To register, call 860-859-5604 with names of attendees and a contact number
Questions? Call Lora Castranova at 860-859-5604
The FREE Out of School Youth "Get with the B.E.A.T." (Better Education Always Triumphs) program in Norwich serves eligible young people ages 17 - 21 who want to earn a GED and find a better job. This part-time program includes high school computer literacy assessment, post-secondary training exploration, tuition assistance and job search assistance.
Parents and interested students are welcome to attend. Join us for a program overview and an opportunity to have your questions answered.
Funding is provided by the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board.
St. Vincent de Paul Place | 11:05 AM
How kids can help SVDPP.
Thursday - March 6, 2014
SVDPP Ambassadors – Children Who Make a Difference
Many times parents ask how younger children can get involved at SVDPP since volunteers must be 18 years old to participate here. They can make a huge difference and we definitely need to help them get started now. Here are some ideas.
Start at home with conversations that express your family values. Show your child by your example how your family cares and makes decisions that help others less fortunate. Help them to understand that they can also contribute by donating clothing and toys that they no longer need or want. Explore other ideas and encourage them to be creative. Suggest that doing chores can be a special way for them to help others by earning money to donate. They can clean, do dishes, shovel, or run errands, etc. to boost a collection. They can host a gathering of friends or relatives who will willingly pitch in or bring items for their cause. Some children ask for food donations in lieu of birthday gifts, for example.
Families with young children can focus on collecting books, warm clothing, blankets, backpacks, and personal care items for the homeless. If your children belong to any organization or church, encourage them to mention their goals and ask others to join them.
Children can discuss their goals with their teacher and class and ask for assistance. One first grade class in Norwich started a food closet in their school. That project became a school-wide service-learning project that delivered about 16,000 food items to St. Vincent de Paul Place in an 8 year period. Students contributed, counted, sorted, and delivered all of the items. They wrote about and visited the soup kitchen and homeless shelter and felt very powerful about their accomplishments.
Some other suggestions:
- Plan your own food drive. Decorate a large box and place it somewhere where it can easily be seen. Perhaps there is a workplace or a convenient public area or an event where people would be generous. Advertise ahead of time. (Adults are usually more receptive to giving something if a child asks.)
- Assemble your own “Holiday Hope Box” for a needy or homeless child. Fill the box with small toys, toiletries and art supplies, chosen for a special boy or girl of a specific age and label it. Create and include your own hand-designed holiday card.
- Make a care package with mittens, socks, T-shirts, etc. for a needy child.
- Make warm scarves from fleece fabric. Buy lengths of micro-fleece and simply cut them into strips. Then cut the ends into fringe. The fleece does not unravel so no sewing is required. All you need is approximately 8 to 10 inches wide by 3-5 feet in length. Try knotting the fringe pieces together, two by two, so that all of the fringes are knotted or slide beads onto the fringe and tie another knot for decoration.
- Donate art supplies to kids in a homeless shelter.
- Make a holiday basket or a centerpiece for the SVDPP dining area.
- Decorate placemats and make cards to brighten someone’s day there.
- Bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes and deliver them.
- Make first aid kits for the homeless shelter.
- Organize a neighborhood group to plant, tend and harvest a vegetable garden and donate some of your produce to SVDPP.
- Buy some seeds and grow your own flowers or plants to sell.
- Children can also participate in various fun service-learning projects that address hunger over the internet. For example, if you have access to a computer and the internet, introduce your children to the United Nations World Food Program to help end hunger - http://www.freerice.com. This Twenty Grains of Rice website offers an English multiple-choice vocabulary test. For each word they define correctly, 20 grains of rice are donated. To date--over 66 Billion grains have been donated!
Email us your creative ideas so that we can share them on this website. Hopefully others will join in to help make your efforts successful. Don’t delay, start today!
St. Vincent de Paul Place | 8:45 AM
The Empty Bowls Project
Saturday - March 1, 2014
On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, the 11th Annual "Empty Bowls Project" dinner to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Place Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry will be held in the cafeteria on the campus of Three Rivers Community College. The dinner will honor
*Lyndsay Meiklem and Meiklem Kiln Works
*Former Mayor Ben Lathrop
*Norwich Public Schools
*Teachers' Memorial Middle School, highlighting: Retired principal William Peckham, Laura Koniecko, Susan Neilan, and Alisyn Hendel
The dinner will be held from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The cost for a "Bowl of Soup" and a refreshment is $5.00. For dinner with a "Hand Made Pottery Bowl" the cost is $10.00.
For more information, please contact Edward Derr at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hosted by a Norwich Collaborative:
*Three Rivers Community College
*TRCC Education Success Program
*TRCC M.A.L.E.S. Club
*TRCC Sociology Club
*TRCC Student Programs and
*Sankofa Education and Leadership, Inc.
St. Vincent de Paul Place | 8:04 AM