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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS:

Thinking About Giving

Sorry Statistics

by Fred Cederholm

We should all be grateful for the many blessings bestowed upon us during this past year and give thanks for the individuals who love us, who help us, and who serve us.
I’ve been thinking about giving. Actually I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving, food pantries, food insecurity, quilts, the St. John’s ladies, Lutheran World Relief, traditions, and demographics. We should all be grateful for the many blessings bestowed upon us during this past year and give thanks for the individuals who love us, who help us, and who serve us. Once again the Thanksgiving observance will be marked in many households with vacancies around the table for the traditional/ bountiful meal. Since last year, there seem to have been so many deaths involving parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, and neighbors. This is compounded by the hundreds of thousands of service men and women serving this nation around the globe. For many... this will be their third (or forth) Thanksgiving away from loved ones because of multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. We give our thanks to them.

You see, this year the Thanksgiving celebration began for me on Sunday evening, when members of five local congregations (three Lutheran, two Methodist) gathered together in our little town to observe a special ecumenical service. It was a time of fellowship, of remembrance, and of gratitude. We were all asked to bring non-perishable food items (or give money) for local food pantries. Festivities will culminate on Thursday, when we gather together with families, friends, and neighbors for a bountiful meal, more fellowship, conversation, and yes, to watch the parades and football.

The Rochelle Area Christian Food pantry was established 25 years ago in 1982. It long ago outgrew its original location in the basement of Dr. John Prabhakar’s office basement. It now provides food assistance to between 225 and 250 families every month. The numbers keep growing. This is not just a local phenomenon. Each month the local agencies recap the people served, breaking down the demographics by number of households, number of individuals, number of minor children, and number of seniors. Reports to the state are summarized and passed on to the US Department of Agriculture. Hunger is happening where you live, too: please make the effort to make a contribution in non-perishable food item (or cash) during this holiday season.

Sorry Statistics
Just last week, the USDA released the summation figures for calendar 2006. During that past year, over 12.6 million households were "food insecure"—about 11% of all US households. The term “food insecure” was a new one for me. It means “experiencing difficulty in providing the necessary level of sustenance for a household.” To me... this is but a lame attempt to spin that over 35 million people, including over 12 million children, are going to bed hungry. They are worried about where the next day’s meals will come from. This is unconscionable in this land of generosity and abundance.

Localities and private groups have tried to pick up the slack while the State and the Federal governments have cut back in their relative (and absolute) dollar support as they channel their funds to other endeavors – both at home and abroad. Is this truly what America wants to be the case? I doubt it!

Americans are a generous people. This is a truism from the largest cities to the smallest little burgs like my hometown of Creston. The ladies of my home congregation at St. John’s just forwarded the 2007 output of 32 quilts for the needy to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) – headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland. With those quilts went 77 layettes, 20 health kits, a box of yard goods, 250 bars of soap, 2 pounds of used postage stamps, and a cash offering of $125—all from a congregation of about 100 members. In 2006, parishes nationwide sent via LWR over 1,334 TONS of such items to thousands of men, women, and children worldwide in 17 countries. Giving is clearly a fine tradition for Americans.

While our demographic mix changes, the deeply loved traditions of these United States remain. The US Census Bureau has just reported that, for the first time, two Hispanic surnames—Garcia and Rodriguez—are among the top 10 most common last names in our nation. In its 200-year history, the US has assimilated peoples and cultures, but the core of the “thanks” and “giving” of this uniquely American holiday live on. Thanksgiving is still as American as pumpkin pie, but it is now also as American as the “Garcia” family name.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2007 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.


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This story was published on November 19, 2007.