Generosity is typical during the holidays — those weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s when people think about gifts for loved ones but also how to help the less fortunate.
And need in the United States, including in Santa Fe, has seldom been as great — at least not since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A pandemic, with the resulting hit to the economy, has left many people with reduced incomes and no work, struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment rates in New Mexico are up almost 3 percent this year compared to last. It’s wonderful news that individuals in our community are responding with open hearts and wallets. Nonprofit workers told reporter James Barron of The New Mexican that charities are being supported like seldom before.
The evidence is clear. There’s the toy drive that collected some 1,500 toys and $40,000 in donations, about four times the typical amount. Or look at the work of The Food Depot, which has distributed more than 10 million pounds of food in 2020, well over a previous high mark of 6.5 million pounds.
Individuals are stepping up. The Santa Fe High football team took in donations to help 14 families with food, clothing, gift cards and cash. Liliana Griego, 9, has been hosting a toy drive for children since age 4; she did so again this year with the help of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council. Her goal was simple — “to make sure all kids have a good Christmas.”
We at The New Mexican are grateful to our readers and others in the community who gave generously to The Empty Stocking Fund, our annual holiday drive to collect cash to help our neighbors in crisis. The goal this year was $275,000, and by this weekend, we had raised over $450,000. (Our donor list in the newspaper hasn’t caught up with the total, but we will.) Those dollars are helping people through tough times, right here at home. Our thanks to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico are heartfelt.
Because of the pandemic and the struggling economy, tough times will continue after Christmas is over. People will still need food, money for rent and help keeping the lights and heat on. Cash is not the only way to help, either. Volunteers can help prepare food packages at The Food Depot. They can cook meals or check in guests at the Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place. They can volunteer at public schools, animal shelters or other places where work still is taking place to help our community.
Because older people are more at risk of contracting the coronavirus, many regular volunteers are staying home because they cannot afford to catch an illness that could kill them. For younger people, though, the risk is not so great. Make a New Year’s resolution to find a charity that needs your time or talent and sign up to help.
And money continues to be welcome, too. Most nonprofits accept online donations, with forms to make recurring contributions automatic. It’s easy to make giving routine, in other words, a transaction that happens every month on the 15th, without waiting for the holiday season. Just a monthly contribution of, say, $20, adds up over a year.
Regular contributions will be more important than ever as the galas and events where so many nonprofits raise cash cannot happen, at least not in person. As a society, we have to become conscious of regular, sustained giving in amounts within our means. The generosity of the Christmas season is impressive. Now, let’s continue this giving spirit all year-round.