It’s the most charitable time of the year

Story by Kayla Vidal

It’s the most charitable time of year — but what happens to the ‘spirit of giving’ when the holidays end?

The holiday season is a time of giving. People are constantly giving gifts, happiness, and cheer unto others. With high amounts of giving in the air, people often turn their thoughts to charity work and there are thousands of opportunities for them to do so. Grocery store entrances have Salvation Army Santa Clauses ringing bells ready to accept coins in their donation bucket. Radio stations all over the Salt Lake valley give money and gifts to listeners in need so that they are able to have a good Christmas. There are plenty of Christmas themed commercials, movies, advertisements, billboards, fundraisers and more that continue to inspire the giving spirit that exists within the holiday season. The question is: what measures are being used the rest of the year to get others to help those in need like they do during the holiday season?

For research purposes for this article, an online survey was given out to 18 college students who mandatorily do at least 20 hours of charity work through the school year. The survey was comprised of five questions all based around their charity work. The questions ranged from how many hours they put in to when they feel the most charitable through the year. When asked what season they volunteer most in, 14 out of the 18 responders said that they do most of, if not all, of their charity work during the holiday season; and when asked if the holiday season increased their chances of volunteering, 15 out of the 18 respondents said yes.

“All the volunteers come around Christmas. There’s an abundance of help, sometimes we can’t even find somewhere for them to help,” said Marian, an activities director at St. Joseph’s Villa Nursing Home, “But come January, the help dies down and so does the amount of volunteers. February to November, we’re barely scraping by with help, and then all of the sudden, come Christmas and the holiday cheer, we have more volunteers than we know what to do with. It’s not fair.”

The United Way of Utah, which is the organization that runs Sub-For Santa and other non-profits throughout Utah, has a specific section on their website labeled “Holiday Volunteering Opportunities”. In that specific section, there are over 12 ways that a person can donate or volunteer that relate back to the holidays. There’s options such as sponsoring a child for the holidays, suggesting gift ideas for those in need, giving to the Giving Tree at University Mall in Provo along with the Angle Tree at ShopKo. Sub-For-Santa is their biggest holiday non-profit and is able to help over 1,500 Utah families alone per year. That amount of money for other organizations year around could result in big changes for society.

Although the holiday season is a perfect time to be thankful and give to others, there should be a way for the community to know that the spirit of giving to the less fortunate should be a year long event. In 2014, the Comprehensive Report on Homelessness put out by the State of Utah stated that there was 13,621 people that experienced homelessness. Of that 13,621 people, 46 percent of them were families. The Utah Food Bank states that there are 423,000 Utahans who are unsure where their next meal will even come from everyday.

“We appreciate every ounce of help we’re able to get. But at the same time, I wish we could get the same amount of help all year long that we get from November to December.” said Alexis Santoyo, a program coordinator for Friends For Sight, a foundation that offers screenings and education about vision problems to those who need it.

There are people in need 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is not surprising that the holiday season brings out the need to give because there is so much to be grateful for and so much is being given, but that need to give and gratefulness should be something that is felt everyday. Non-profits are looking for all the help they can get. The high volume of charity work done in December is highly appreciated and brings in a lot of profit for the non-profit, but that money and support cannot last them all year. The spirit of giving should last year around, and not just during a time that the amount of giving equates to what is received.