My View: Community Foundation Week honors key organizations

The recent fiscal turmoil in Washington serves as a poignant reminder of the important strength and stability of America’s charitable sector. When political upheaval forced a stop to programs and services on which communities and families depend, community foundations were a lifeline.

Community foundations like the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan do not focus on one issue; they exist to improve the entire community. They connect donors to their charitable interests, engage nonprofit organizations and neighborhood groups in efforts to strengthen communities and bring together business, government and community leaders to identify local needs and advance promising solutions to local problems.

Community Foundation Week, Nov. 12-18, is a time to recognize and reflect on the unique impact that community foundations have made throughout America during the last 99 years. The first community foundation was established in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914. Today, there are more than 700 community foundations throughout America serving their communities.

In the next few months, Congress will be discussing the federal budget and tax policy. The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan will get behind hundreds of leaders from foundations, nonprofits and charitable organizations in Washington, D.C., later this month to meet directly with lawmakers and urge them to protect charitable giving incentives, such as the charitable deduction and IRS charitable rollover.

Placing limits on the charitable deduction at a time when communities are struggling in a weak economy and facing the consequences of government cutbacks is bad timing and bad logic. In short, fewer charitable dollars combined with government cutbacks double the difficulty of helping our neighbors at the time they need us most.

Donations made possible through the charitable deduction help achieve breakthroughs and benefits that put our community and our country on a path of continuous improvement. That’s something we can all support.

Community foundations understand what makes their communities tick: the pressing needs, the forces of change, available resources and capacity for growth. They connect people who care with causes that matter.

We encourage members of our community to participate in Community Foundation Week and connect with the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan by attending our next event Nov. 20. It’s an opportunity to learn about how we can strengthen our collective impact, improve the lives of people in need, and create opportunities to ensure a brighter future for us all.

On Nov. 20 we will also honor two individuals for their remarkable record of community service with the David T. Cocks Award for Commitment to Community: Dr. Robert E. Dinsmore, medical director, Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties; and Darrell Supak, chairman of Catskill Regional Medical Center.

It will soon be Thanksgiving. Enjoy the richness of our American heritage. Give thanks and support the causes that are dear to you. You don’t have to be a Bill Gates or a Rockefeller to be a philanthropist. The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan makes it simple for those with charitable dreams and modest incomes to give back.

At a time when the capability of government to solve our most pressing problems is limited, charitable funds established by caring individuals and organizations, and grant making from those funds, offer a timely complement to government action.

— Karen VanHouten Minogue is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan.