Tormohlen: Celebrate the giving season
December 22, 2015
This is the giving time of year.
And while our generosity is rightly focused on family and friends around the holidays, it's also appropriate to consider the broader community, where many other people need help.
Many families make a point of charitable giving around the holidays. Altruism flows freely in December, and tax deductions also come to mind.
The most important reason to give, however, is the need. 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 kids 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. Garfield County's teen birth rate is third among Colorado's 64 counties and twice the statewide average at 42.1 per 1,000 births.
These disturbing statistics are reflected in local kids' state of mind, too. In 2014, some 2,000 local students took the Gallup Student Poll, which asked how they feel about their future. Only 57 percent of these respondents reported a hopeful view of the future. That's slightly better than the national average, but it's certainly less than I would have anticipated.
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Fortunately for these kids, 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. An ongoing series of stories called The Hope Project, prepared jointly by The Aspen Times and the Aspen Community Foundation, has spotlighted various forms of emergency assistance that the valley's nonprofits render to locals in need.
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 Christmas approaches, donor generosity is enabling local organizations to shelter our homeless, find employment for seasonal workers, get medical care to uninsured families and much more.
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, the Aspen Community Foundation can make sure your dollars go where they're needed.
Congress has made permanent the IRA charitable rollover, which means that donors 70 and older may transfer as much as $100,000 from an individual retirement account to a qualified charity without the distribution counting as taxable income.
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/19569908-113/aspen-times-weekly-all-we-want-the), where many of the valley's 300-plus nonprofits share some of their holiday wishes. Here's my personal wish for the 2015 giving season: "Every community member makes a gift to a nonprofit whose work they care about."
Happy holidays to all.
Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.
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