December 2009
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Celebrating the holidays, Four Corners style

By Nancy Schaufele

Webster’s dictionary defines “give” as: “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; to care about something; to relinquish or sacrifice (to give one’s … for); make a gift or contribute.”

This time of year, our thoughts normally turn to giving. Many of us are frantically making lists of family and friends as the hysteria and pressure of the holiday commercials begin their pre-Christmas attack.

However, giving is not limited to the holiday season. Nor is it limited to tangible gifts bought by money. In parenting circles the giving of “time and self” is hands-down the most powerful and important gift any child can receive from a caregiver. This holds true for family and friends.

The gift of time and self is also critically important to the many causes and organizations which simply cannot function without volunteers. Time and energy are often the most important contributions a person can share.

Whether we are talking about a financial gift or a gift of self, the fact is that most of us really enjoy giving. We love seeing the smile on a loved one’s face when they open the special present you spent so much time finding. Or that feeling of warmth after spending an evening at the homeless shelter helping serve food; taking a child with few or no resources out to a movie; baking a pie to sell at a bake sale to help animals. Giving makes us feel good and those that receive our gifts are richer as a result.

Why do people give? Where do they give?

People give to the individuals and causes they believe in, the things that tug at their hearts and speak to their values. In a “village” such as ours people have a wide variety of passions and causes. Because of this giving, the many service organizations in a community can continue to function. In fact, without the gifts of time and/or money from the community, many of these organizations would cease to exist.

Depending on what you value, support, and care about, you have many options for giving in the local area. Your gifts need not be monetary; many organizations can use volunteers or board members. And remember there are a host of thrift stores in the area that support charitable causes, including the La Plata County Humane Society, Salvation Army and Volunteers of America; just shopping at those can help support a cause.

Here are a few suggestions, broken down by category of service:

Children

Did you ever go to the Piñon Project talent show or Partners’ Twelve Hours of Mesa Verde bike race? The money from these events and others helps children and families in need.

The needs of children in this area are legion. There are organizations that reach out to disadvantaged children and families. The Piñon Project is a place that brings together people and resources needed to support families in Montezuma County. Partners is a mentoring and support program for atrisk youth.

Victims of abuse and neglect receive help from The Nest, which provides a safe, child-friendly environment that eases the emotional trauma experienced by children during the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. For the disabled, Southwest Kids, a program of Community Connections, Inc., provides early-intervention supports and services.

The School Community Youth Coalition undertakes a variety of activities and programs that meet the needs of youth in our community including Teen Maze, Meth Action, STUDS (Students Taking Action Against Underage Drinking) radio shows and newsletters.

The disadvantaged

Stop by one of Cortez’s soup kitchen (Grace’s or Hope’s Kitchen) and see the volunteers cheerily dishing up mashed potatoes. Or stick your head into the Bridge Emergency Shelter on any winter night and watch a volunteer help an elderly gentleman to bed, offer hot soup to someone shivering with cold, or play cards with someone lonely, out-on-their-luck and tired. Come by the Good Samaritan Center in its modest office behind Slavens in downtown Cortez, and see the disadvantaged receive food, help with lodging, and information on other resources. Lift a hammmer with volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, which has chapters in La Plata and Montezuma counties. Find out how local churches and faith-based organizations are helping those who, at some point in life, cannot help themselves. Helping the disadvantaged in our world and/or community weaves the thread of compassion to help us realize: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

The disabled

Talk to the folks at Community Connections and see them light up as they recount the success of one of their residents. Or learn how the Medicine Horse Center in Mancos offers horseassisted therapy for children and adults with disabilities as well as for people recovering from trauma such as sexual abuse.

Sit by the bed of someone living their last few months or weeks, and help them with their passage – it’s what Hospice of Montezuma does on a daily basis. Helping those deep transitions from life to death or from helplessness to empowerment connects the circle of true community.

The abused

Montezuma County now has its own safe house (called Wings) for abused individuals. Durango has another called the Southwest Safehouse. Safe housing, along with the free counseling offered by Renew, can help empower the powerless, offering them security and hope. Renew is a private, not-for-profit agency for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and for adult survivors of child sex abuse. Abuse can only be stopped if it is acknowledged. The Nest offers help and safety for children and youth. Looking into the dark eyes of an abused soul can change your life forever.

In addition, the Durango Community Shelter provides temporary housing for the sober homeless.

Animals

How many of you have bought mouth-watering baked goods in front of City Market to help For Pet’s Sake Humane Society, the nonprofit serving Montezuma and Dolores counties? Did you know there was a local horse rescue or that wildlife rehabilitator Sheryl Rose is still working hard saving injured raptors and animals large and small? Animals cannot speak for themselves. The organizations that are devoted to speaking for and saving animals, are a vital component to this our community. Many such organizations can use donations not just of money, but of items such as dog and cat food, clean sheets or towels, bleach, dog houses and more.

The environment

The region is home to a host of organizations that fight sometimesexhausting battles to protect our land, water and air. San Juan Citizens Alliance, with offices in both Durango and Cortez, works on issues involving oil and gas, watershed protection, air quality and more in Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. Community members from Greater Dolores Action, a citizens’ nonprofit, just worked in November to clean up metal hazards such as old cars from the Dolores River, making it cleaner and safer for wildlife, fishermen and rafters.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness, based in Durango, focuses on impacts to public lands in Southwest Colorado and southeastern Utah. The San Juan Mountains Association, working with public-lands agencies, provides education and outdoor excursions.

Community

Community is a broad topic. There are people committed to helping create sustainability through the encouragement of local food producers. The Southwest Community Leadership Collaborative houses Leadership Montezuma, High School Leadership Montezuma, and The Summit Leadership series. KSJD Dryland Community Radio works to provide locally based, community-oriented radio.

All are dedicated to create awareness; education and encouragement to a generation of leaders who will help govern all aspects of our community. This paper (Free Press) is an example of dedication to the community. One small ad can make the difference in the survival of community outreach programs such as the radio station or the paper.

Health

Most of us have been touched by health issues – either with ourselves, our families or friends. Cancer and heart disease still rob us of wonderful people daily. Families are fractured by the slow and devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Supporting the organizations that fight these and other terrible diseases can make a difference. The local Relay for Life chapter is already hard at work preparing for its next fundraiser in the summer.

The elderly

Would you have time to visit a nursing home or volunteer at a local senior center? Your presence would mean the world to an elderly person – who someday may be you.

The list of worthy causes and organizations is huge, and limited only by the vision and passion of the people committed to giving time and money to support these causes. Some organizations like the United Way help support a great number of these organizations which casts your gifts in a wide web of worthy recipients.

However, these days the pie is small and getting smaller. The recession is hitting service organizations — hard. As people lose jobs they stop giving – often out of necessity. Some groups have reported a huge drop in funding and giving since last year. They are worried.

So if you think your gift is too small or inconsequential, think again. Every dollar and ounce of energy counts, whether it comes from a cookie or a tote bag, an ad on the radio or in the paper, an evening spent at the shelter, volunteer time managing phones or QuickBooks, marathon meetings, gathering items for a silent auction, taking a child to the park, wiping the tears of an abused woman, washing dishes, sorting clothes — it all matters. And it’s all vitally important.

This season, take into consideration your own passions, concerns and values and if possible give “voluntarily and without expecting compensation” to the things that matter most to your heart. Suggestions:

• Instead of giving “stuff” to family and friends, make a donation to their favorite cause.

• At holiday parties, have everyone put their favorite cause into a hat. Whatever name you draw, you donate to an organization that supports it.

• Buy local if possible. Those local providers donate resources and money to the organizations you care about.

• Spend time learning more about the organizations that support your passion. Join a board or just visit. Give whatever you can – however you can. It may surprise you how far a little can go.

For a detailed listing of local nonprofits, charities, and organizations that could use your help, visit www.fourcornersfreepress.com and click on Community Resources and Giving Opportunities.


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