January 04, 2006

IN TIMES OF NEED

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

When Alexis de Tocqueville, in his quest to learn more about our new country toured the United States in the early part of the 19th century, he noted in his diary that Americans were ready and willing givers to charity. Something he considered rather unique. He said that Americans saw a need, for a school, a hospital or a church, or any other kind of service, they formed an association and began to work on raising private funds to help. No one had to prompt them and there was no government involvement.This is a tradition that has been a continuing part of the American way of life. And today, in the early part of the 21st century, 175 years after de Tocqueville toured our country Americans contribute more to charity than ever before. Nationwide, donations to charity are as high as $175 billion dollars. Whatâ??s more, and just as impressive, nearly 100 million Americans volunteer their time to work in charitable enterprises.Here in Idaho, we set the standard in our willingness to give to worthy charities. According to a nationwide study of charitable giving, based on a percentage of income, Idaho ranks as one of the top ten states in America when it comes to donations to charity. This is impressive and reflects a lot about who we are, the values we consider important, and our willingness to help others in need. This desire to lend a helping hand to others is part of our pioneer spirit.Itâ??s remarkable just how many charities and opportunities for charitable giving there are nationwide and right here in Idaho. According to the Internal Revenue Service there are some 3,000 charitable organizations in our state. These include many charities like local church assistance programs, community mental health programs, charities to aid at-risk children, or support for medical research. The list and opportunities for giving is very long. But most of all, giving to these organizations is a decision Idahoans make without coercion or force of law. Right now, as never before, Americans are once again proving their commitment and willingness to help their fellow citizens. Following the devastation of Katrina, donations to relief organizations poured in. Assistance to storm victims, provided by a host of organizations, has included emergency food relief, resettlement assistance and aid in reconstruction. The number of worthy aid organizations providing relief in the wake of this disaster is too large to list, but contributions to the American Red Cross for example, one of the largest charities providing help to storm victims, were in the hundreds of millions. Giving to charity and volunteering for charity work is a long standing part of what it means to be American. Itâ??s something Idahoans take very seriously. We give, often quietly, and it makes a meaningful difference in the life of our communities and our country. WORD COUNT: 474