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Gifts directly impact your community

This is a month of giving. We give gifts beautifully wrapped, we give donations of food to the food banks, we give money to charities, we give our time and we give hope wherever we can.

I have some fun stories of generosity to tell you this month. Last week a 10-year-old boy and his mom came into my office. He had an envelope to give me. In it was a $20 bill and three quarters. He had been putting money aside to give away. He chose to bring his donation to The River Center. I gave him a hug and thanked him — and, I confess, got a little teary. This young man is learning early the joy that comes from giving. I am thankful to him for his generous sharing and to his parents for encouraging his generosity.

A lady contacted us a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to sponsor a family for Christmas. She was inspired, she said, by some signs she saw around our community last summer from The River Center that said, “Give a Little, Help a Lot.” She didn’t really know what The River Center did, but she wanted to remember that idea during Christmas. So she contacted us this December. She is sponsoring a family that has requested help this Christmas.

A man came into my office last week with a proposal. He and his wife would like to help a family throughout the coming year. Could The River Center help connect their gift with a family who is really trying to make ends meet but just can’t quite do it? Yes, we can connect them. They are thinking creatively about how to give to help their community.

We received a gift this past month from the Keith M. Sullivan Foundation of $1,500 to support our single-parenting program. Single parents have a lot on their plate — working, caring for the children, making ends meet, maintaining their homes and trying to care for their own needs as well. This gift allows us to creatively serve these parents in our community. In addition, Santa has agreed to pay a visit to our single parent holiday party tonight. Generosity comes from as far away as the North Pole to our community.

I came in to work last week to find a pile of wood very neatly piled outside our Wood Bank. It is a gift from someone in our community who had too much wood and knew that there are those who are cold. Where does the wood from the wood bank go? A man came to The River Center recently who had just lost his job last week. He has an eighth of a tank of oil left for his furnace. He has been searching out wood for his wood stove to keep the furnace from turning on. He had come to apply for fuel assistance located here in our building. He left The River Center with a truckload of cut, split and dry wood to help bridge this rough time in his life. We are thankful for the generosity of the giver of the wood and the generosity of the volunteers who cut, split and stacked that wood. One more family will be warm in our community.

We received nine turkeys and the fixings for Thanksgiving dinners as well as Christmas trees for families. This is the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors — gifts of food, gifts of beauty, gifts of wood, gifts of financial help.

We sent out our Winter Appeal letter last week. The generous responses arrive each day in the mail. We have received checks ranging from $4 to $250. Each and every dollar is significant. Each and every dollar makes a difference. Through these gifts we are able to provide parenting classes for those who cannot pay for them, home visiting for young pregnant women and their babies, help for the job seekers with their resumes, basic computer workshops, answers for your questions about community resources, free tax preparations and more.

Someone mentioned to me that they were told that the single parent program didn’t cost anything. I paused. Well, it doesn’t cost the participant anything, but is costly to provide the program. Paying for staff time, planning, and building costs adds up. We offer many programs at little or no cost to the participants, but the programs certainly do cost. The River Center used to be funded in large part by government grants and programs. Today only 6 percent of our support is federally funded. This means we’ve really become a service for our community, supported by our community. This means your gifts, large or small, really count for a lot. They really have an efficient, direct impact for the community you live in. Your gifts help us keep the doors open, the furnace turned up, the lights on, and phone working to answer your calls. Thank you for your generosity this season and all through the year.

The River Center depends on the generosity of this community.

Thank you, and as you give, may you be filled with great joy this season.

Margaret Nelson is the executive director of The River Center.

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