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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Beacon Bits -- A Giving Community

Beacon is a giving community. The town could be a poster child for Peter Singer's "effective altruism" movement.  Just this past month alone, Common Ground Farm held its annual auction and raised monies towards it 'Grow a Row' project that feeds hungry families with fresh produce throughout the growing season. And the Beacon Sloop Club sponsored a Cajun dance with Krew de la Rue, which raised $1000 towards the food pantries and feeding programs of St. Andrew's/St. Luke's Food Pantry and InCare of Multi-Service Inc. Not to mention the month-long initiative, 'Month of Generosity', with a series of events held at More Good, which targeted raising monies for clean water in 42,000 people in Haiti, Uganda, and Ghana.

These events are just the tip of the iceberg since Beacon's music and art scene give to its residents and visitors on a daily basis and the level of volunteer-led organizations and not-for-profits lead the way with a variety of activities throughout the year. So now during the holiday season, it's a particular joyous time to celebrate that Beacon is a Giving Community!

It just proves that shopping locally isn't the only way to celebrate Christmas. Recognizing and experiencing a sense of abundance leads the way to giving that doesn't require a shopping list or credit card. I'm reminded about a recent broadcast on public radio about parenting issues. One family has a rule about holiday purchases that mandates no more than four gifts per person: a want, a need, something to wear, something to read. Another family set a rule that supports recycling material stuff by requiring that for every new thing one brings home, one thing must go ('one in/one out'). And a third family honors the sentiment that 'much is asked to whom much is given', so they look for ways to adopt a family (e.g., The Angel Tree project) and then spend holiday preparation time focusing on decisions about shopping for members of the family in need rather than focusing on themselves. All of these ideas support the viewpoint that a TV commercial I recently saw would suggest -- that it would be nice if the four-letter word most associated with Christmas is L-O-V-E instead of S-A-L-E.

Food for thought: There's still time to consider a new rule to implement this holiday season, or better yet, to contemplate a New Year's resolution that will support our very own giving movement in Beacon. Volunteer at one of the food pantries or feeding programs. (Stop by St. Andrew's on Saturdays or First Presbyterian on Friday or Saturday to inquire about how to lending a helping hand.) Support a local organization by renewing your 'friend' status or becoming a new friend. (More friends of the Beacon Sloop Club will get the the people's sloop, the Woody Guthrie, back into the Hudson to set sail for the public.) Donate a CD or book to Beacon Reads when you make your next purchase. Find out about the local prisons (Fishkill and Downstate Correctional Facilities) and opportunities to engage in encounters with those who are marginalized. (Check out the Puppies Behind Bars website for more information.) Get ready to join in the annual MLK parade on Main Street on Monday, January 18th, commencing at Springfield Baptist Church. Or just pick up a piece of litter/trash the way Pete Seeger would do as he walked along Main Street. Everyone benefits by each person who gives more, but it's especially heartwarming and rewarding for the person who gives wellWishing you all a very special Giving Christmas this year!

This blog was also inspired by a recent visit to the Afya Foundation in Yonkers, NY -- a non-profit foundation that aims to collect surplus medical supplies, hospital equipment and humanitarian provisions for acute and ongoing health crises worldwide. Current projects are focused on the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece, Luggage for Life, and Haiti Rehab. Arrange a visit with family or friends to help sort supplies in the warehouse for a unique holiday outing and non-traditional way of giving. You'll be amazed with the scope of work and accomplishments of this small foundation that is a model for innovative social entrepreneurship and 'effective altruism.' Kudos to its award winning founder, Danielle Butin.

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