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Commentary: A time for giving... locally

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The end of the year is a busy time - holidays to plan for. Travel. Celebrations. It's also a natural time for reflection, and thinking ahead, for trying to make a difference. Cali Brooks works in philanthropy, in the Adirondacks. That's where her thoughts are as 2009 closes.

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For many of us, the end of the year is the giving season. Whether it's for tax purposes or supporting the needs of others; our volunteer time and our charitable giving becomes front and center. We will see countless articles in national publications such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times about well-known, immensely wealthy people and their philanthropy. Given our fascination with money and celebrity, this is no surprise.

Largely unheralded are local donors, who range from the very rich to the not so rich. You and me. What we share is a passion for our communities--their people and institutions. We support the hundreds of local non-profits that enliven and humanize our region and help its neediest residents. Local donors are smart, dedicated, and seasoned people who know how to help, and want to make a difference.

How does this happen in the Adirondack North Country region ? In many ways, such as when a small business owner gets his friends interested in an after-school program that tutors kids, or a program that works with teens to learn hunting, fishing or backcountry skills. It's when parishioners gather to serve meals at a church soup kitchen, or when moms and dads join together to a new playground. It's when an environmental organization helps residents protect the water quality of their lake that supplies the community's drinking water.

The pluralism that is at the core of our region's diversity is also at the heart of philanthropy. If we are to feed the hungry, develop new audiences for the arts, preserve our open space, bring up educated children, care for our elderly, find cures for diseases, and protect our civil rights--in short, to maintain a healthy democracy--we all need to contribute.

There is no shortage of nonprofits doing excellent work. As the giving season comes to a close, please think hard about the passions that excite you and the problems that move you, and give... give locally.

(Cali Brooks is director of the Adirondack Community Trust, one of the region's community foundation.)

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