Giving Thought: Celebrate the giving season | AspenTimes.com

Giving Thought: Celebrate the giving season

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought

This is the time of year to gather family and friends to celebrate the holidays. It also is the time of year when many of us make charitable gifts. While most of us have organizations and causes that are near and dear to our hearts, the changed political landscape may have you thinking beyond your usual list.

This year, I would encourage you, if you haven't already, to include the needs of the most vulnerable in our community when you do your giving. Alongside its famous mountains and resort towns, the greater Roaring Fork Valley also is home to glaring disparities in wealth, income and education.

Children from local low-income families face a broad array of obstacles that start early and multiply later in life. For example, many low-income children enter kindergarten with no preschool education and poor language skills; if they cannot read at grade level by third grade, then they're at higher risk of failing to graduate high school. And the likelihood of trouble increases from there.

For the past three years, some 2,000 local students have taken the Gallup Student Poll, which asks students how they feel about their future. Last year, only 45 percent respondents reported a hopeful view of the future. For the first time, these results were lower than the national average. And this year's poll was taken before the election, so we don't yet know how our students, especially those who are Latino, will be affected.

Fortunately for these youth, and unbeknownst to many of them, they live in a place where the generosity of local donors enables the community to tackle many of its problems. Myriad nonprofit organizations, agencies and civic groups collaborate every day of the year to provide basic needs, mental-health counseling, medical and dental treatment, support for victims of domestic violence, legal assistance, elder care and much more.

It's no exaggeration to say that philanthropy in this valley fills many of the social- and human-service gaps that plague other communities across the country. Right now, as the year comes to a close, donor generosity is enabling local organizations to shelter our homeless, find employment for seasonal workers, get medical care to uninsured families and much more.

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In addition to the challenges many in our community face every day, the presidential election has caused many to have a heightened anxiety about the future. There are numerous local organizations, including Aspen Community Foundation, who are on high alert for policy changes that could adversely affect the health, education and well-being of the most vulnerable in our community. To all our friends and neighbors who might feel vulnerable this holiday season, we pledge to stand with you and offer every support we can over the coming months and years. Please know that you are not alone.

Since 1980, Aspen Community Foundation has supported and collaborated with hundreds of local charities on an array of issues. We specialize in connecting donors to particular areas of community need. The foundation's network and experience can help take the guesswork out of an end-of-year donation by ensuring the money goes directly toward the donor's intended purpose. So, whether you want to direct your gift toward early-childhood education, bridging language barriers or promoting the arts, Aspen Community Foundation can make sure your dollars go where they're needed.

If you're unsure of your giving priorities or would appreciate some ideas, then see the recent article in the Aspen Times Weekly http://www.aspentimes.com/news/weekly/all-we-want-aspens-annual-nonprofit-wish-list), where many of the valley's nonprofits share some of their holiday wishes. Here's my personal wish for the 2016 giving season: Every community member makes a gift to a nonprofit whose work they care about.

Happy holidays from all of us at Aspen Community Foundation.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

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