Giving when you have less to give

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By Erika Weisensee
Milwaukie writer

With lay-offs and even announcements of businesses shutting their doors, the economic crisis has hit home for thousands of Oregonians. Combined with a tumultuous market and general uneasiness about what lies ahead, people understandably may be spending less this holiday season. Though it remains to be seen, collectively we may also be giving less.

Yet, when the economy takes a slide, human service organizations, in turn, need more. For example, the Oregon Food Bank (www.oregonfoodbank.org) reports that between July and September, the need for emergency food boxes was up 13 percent across Oregon. In some areas of the state, need was up as much as 43 percent.

Without question, the need is great this year. Here are some ways to make a difference in these budget-straining times:

1) Give gently used items. The Salvation Army, and similar programs, use proceeds from thrift stores to help fund human service programs. So, your gently used clothing, blankets, household items, furniture, toys and more can help others.

2) Donate your time. From soup kitchens to women’s shelters, non-profits and agencies of all types need your help. If you don’t have a lot of time to give, many organizations need volunteers for one-time special events and annual drives that don’t require an ongoing time commitment.

3) Involve your friends and family. There is power in numbers! You can help a lot by spreading the word and rallying your troops. If hosting a holiday gathering, consider asking friends and family to bring items (like food or toys) for a drive happening in your community.

4) Finally, don’t estimate the power of small cash donations. Donations of just five, ten and twenty dollars can add up to substantial numbers for non-profits and charities. Find a cause you believe in, and remember, every penny counts.

### Erika Weisensee is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.