Archived Story

Haiti highlights willingness to give

Published 10:59am Friday, January 22, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The severe earthquake that struck the nation of Haiti last week, followed by several strong aftershocks, has put a spotlight on a global reaction of donation and giving to the cause.

Several television stations will air “Hope for Haiti Now” tonight at 8 p.m. and Red Cross donations made via text message are well into the millions.

Even as the country continues to battle a weakened workforce, following years of recession Americans, it seems have not lost the desire to give.

At Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, President Rob Habicht and his core of volunteers are dedicated to helping better their community through endowments used to aid community organizations and charities.

“Our support comes from individuals with a charitable intent and we try to help them realize their charitable goals,” Habicht said.

The economy has created a unique situation when it comes to charitable giving. Though the need grows, that which is given is sometimes curbed by donators who might rather hold off until economic pressures ease up.

“One of the things that happens in the economy,” Habicht said, “people sit on the sidelines until the comfort level comes back.”

Still, as seen with the outpouring of monetary support coming from donations to help with Haitian relief, so too are area residents continuing to support the communities in which they live.
Michigan Gateway provides an extensive listing of area funds and organizations on their Web site, www.mgcf.org, including the Niles Youth Fund, the Niles-Buchanan YMCA and Rotary Community Actions Fund as well as the Cass County Community Fund and the Buchanan Education Fund and several scholarships.

“Considering the economy,” Habicht said the number of donors the organization had at the end of 2009 were about average. Though the number in dollars might have been less, “the intent was still there,” he said.

The intent to give could be seen as a somewhat basic or natural – but the methods to giving do seem to be changing.

When it comes to certain aspects, such as direct donation to a cause much like what is happening now or to fundraising ventures, the act of doing so has reached a new plateau thanks to the convenience of technology.

Those interested in helping out can simply text the agreement of their donations, download music for which all the proceeds go to charity – even find ways to give via Twitter or Facebook.

“Technology is going to play a bigger and bigger part going forward,” Habicht said.
But where accessibility grows, so does vulnerability.

“There’s a danger though, in that,” he said. “Because I think the anonymity of it would lead to increase in fraud and people taking advantage” of otherwise unsuspecting donors.

“That’s one of the downsides with it,” Habicht said. “The development of the technology will evolve to where the safeguards will be in place.”

Though his organization dealing with endowment funds wouldn’t necessarily make use of text donations, technology aids the organization in their mission to tell their story “and to make people aware that there are people in the community that support charitable interests and we help them do that.”

Something, it might be comforting to know, so many still want to do.

“I think that the basic humanity of our, of the people in our community, they’re charitable minded,” Habicht said. “When they have an issue they want to address, I don’t think anything really holds them back.”

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