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(For the week of November 12, 2007)
National Philanthropy Day
by James L. Cummins
We are constantly hearing that Mississippi is last in this and last in that. But when it comes to philanthropy, Mississippi has the highest per capita of charitable giving of any state in the United States.
Philanthropy is defined as the altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property or work to needy persons. National Philanthropy Day is a day in which we celebrate exceptional individuals and organizations that have dedicated themselves to philanthropy. Although there is not a designated day, celebrations are held during the month of November, with each sponsor determining the day of celebration. This year will mark the 22nd anniversary of this special day.
You may be asking why we celebrate philanthropy. Stop and consider the worldwide impact of charitable organizations and their increasing role in our societies. Millions of programs contribute billions of dollars each year connecting individuals to causes, as well as to each other. This fosters communal participation which improves the quality of life for all people. Wildlife Mississippi and other conservation organizations would not exist if people didn't open up their wallets and purses and donate funds.
In Oxford, not long after Katrina devastated our Coast, Sam Haskell, of my home town of Amory, and Lanny Griffith, of Corinth, hosted a fundraiser titled Mississippi Rising featuring Mississippi natives Morgan Freeman, Sela Ward, Faith Hill, Steve Azar and Gerald McRaney. Others included Ray Romano, Whoopi Goldberg, Delta Burke, Debbie Allen, Brian McKnight, Pam Tillis, Samuel Jackson and Kathy Ireland. Most of these celebrities are familiar with our state. They come every other year to Amory – a small town of 8,000 – to raise money for scholarships for Mississippi students. Mrs. Ireland even liked the area so much that she manufactures her line of furniture near there.
In the United States alone, there are over 1 million charitable organizations with Americans giving close to $295 billion annually. In Canada, with nearly $6 billion given, there are more than 88,000 charities that provide services. Latin America and Asia are also seeing a tremendous growth in their charitable sectors as their governments are no longer able to provide enough funding for social services. Therefore, if not for charitable organizations, the quality of life for all would be greatly diminished as charities generously contribute to education, healthcare, arts, environmental causes and other important programs.
In 2007, 50,000 people in more than 125 communities worldwide will participate in National Philanthropy Day events and celebrations. Many chapters will hold award ceremonies, banquets and other special events to honor volunteers, businesses, foundations, youth in philanthropy and outstanding individual donors who are making a difference through their efforts.
So encourage your local community leaders to participate in the celebration of this special day. And if you don't have time to participate in a celebration, be thankful you live in a state that is known more for giving than receiving.