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Hard Times and Hope to Help

For the past year, it has been hard to go a day without hearing about the impacts of the downturn in our economy. Everyone knows someone – often many -- who have lost a job, had their shifts cut back, or are seeing their own business shrink. Everyone wants to know when it will end, and what we can do.

Personally, many people we know are struggling to keep their homes and pay their bills. As a group, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is struggling as well. And that includes our non-profits. A recent survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service shows that 80% of non-profits surveyed are under financial stress from the state of the economy. Nearly a quarter have had to decrease staff hours and about one-third have eliminated staff positions.

Despite these dismal numbers, our non-profits still carry on and continue to serve our community. How are they doing it and how can we help our community not only get through this tough time, but actually thrive?

We can volunteer, and we can look out for each other. There are many worthy causes where your time and energy can be put to good use. When you stop and think about it, this is one of the true blessings of our community -- the number and quality of San Diego-area non-profits that have formed to improve our lives.

I would like to mention a few organizations, with the caveat that there are many more wonderful groups, and I unfortunately cannot list them all.

The San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center
Most of us are familiar with The Center and the great programs it offers, including youth housing, senior services and low-cost internet availability. Go to www.thecentersd.org to find out how you can help.

Mama’s Kitchen
Mama’s Kitchen delivers meals to anyone in need in San Diego with AIDS or cancer. You can help by working in the kitchen, delivering meals or organizing a food drive. Learn how to get involved at www.mamaskitchen.org.

Auntie Helen’s
Auntie Helen’s is a thrift store and free laundry service for people with AIDS. Help by donating items for the thrift store, laundry supplies or medical equipment. If you are interested in volunteering, contact www.auntiehelens.org.

Again, these are just a few of the many organizations that need our help. The Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner is coming up, and you can donate today to the Marines’ Toys for Tots Program. Remember, there are events year-round in our community where we can get involved.

If organizational involvement is not your “thing,” we can help just by looking out for our friends or neighbors. In this day and time, your neighbors or friends may be suffering in silence, having lost their jobs or their homes. For many, it's hard to acknowledge and admit that the economic downturn has hit their own family. So show your neighborliness by simply dropping off some food or doing a nice gesture.

One last opportunity I would like to mention involves financial giving, if you are able. Recently, my friends have been sending me “birthday messages” by email and Facebook, asking me to make a donation to a charity rather than buy them a birthday present. I am thrilled to make a donation in their name and know that my small contribution will combine with others to support local organizations right here in San Diego. This idea can be extended to your holiday giving as well.

We are part of a wonderful, giving community with a long history of community activism. We have a tradition of looking out for each other. Let’s all step up and do something extra in this difficult time; so we can help others less fortunate than ourselves find a moment of peace, a nutritious meal or a friendly face on a dark day. I accept my own challenge to help more and hope you will join me.

In closing, I wish to thank SDGLN.COM for inviting me to submit this, and wish them great luck in their new venture.