Instead of Black Friday, how about Giving Day?

A new national tradition can help celebrate the power, passion of philosophy

BRATTLEBORO — Rather than “Black Friday,” how about declaring the day after Thanksgiving as “Giving Day,” a day to encourage philanthropy?

This simple idea associates charitable giving and the celebration of philanthropy with our national holiday. All Vermonters would be encouraged to offer assistance to those in need, in whatever way they might be able to do so.

Recent disasters have proven that lending support to those in need is an important part of our Vermont tradition and the American tradition. The holiday season provides an occasion to remind us of all that we have to be grateful for, and it should also serve to remind us to continue to be aware of the needs of others who might be struggling and might find themselves in need of assistance.

As Vermonters already know, we can help others in many ways: donations of funds, food or individual help; giving of our time to individuals or groups struggling to meet their daily needs; and volunteering service to nonprofit and community organizations to assist their efforts.

Giving Day, a day when people across the state can celebrate the power and passion of their philanthropy, gives us an opportunity to think about what is important to us and how we can give.

We can give to a cause that means something to us: an issue that our passion connects to, a community need that tugs at our heartstrings, an organization we know that does good work.

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You can participate in Giving Day by:

• Making a Giving Day commitment to support your favorite cause with a gift of time or money.

• Celebrating Thanksgiving! Whether it's in quiet, personal conversations, a rousing 'round-the-table discussion, or an eloquent toast, take a moment to talk about issues that matter to you and your Giving Day commitment - and encourage others to do the same.

• Building a new tradition by encouraging others to celebrate Giving Day.

• Making a Giving Day commitment to support your favorite cause with a gift of time or money.

• Expressing your values, compassion, and passions with friends and family by discussing ways in which to support the causes that matter to you. Have a dinner party to discuss what you can do collectively to make a difference in your community.

• Teaching your children about giving by agreeing on a family gift to a nonprofit, or through activities that teach giving.

• Planning your legacy by creating your will.

• Gathering with friends to create a giving circle where you decide on a group gift that leverages your individual donations into one large one.

• Investigating the Vermont Community Foundation (802-388-3355; vermontcf.org), whose staff can offer you information about local nonprofits and suggest ways to get philanthropically involved.

• Signing up for a regular volunteer opportunity.

• Serving on a nonprofit board. Bring your knowledge and know-how to help guide a local nonprofit. Check out your local United Way for organizations looking for board members.

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This holiday season, we have much to be grateful for and, with the downturn in the economy, we also know that giving is more important than ever. Help is needed more when times are harder. The best reason to give in a down economy is because that's when it does the most good.

The same slump that makes it harder for some to keep up their charitable giving makes it harder for others to put food on the table and keep hope in their lives. Hard times strain families at every seam. Charitable giving helps keep them from coming apart.

Giving Day provides everyone - those directly in need and those who want so much to help - with a concrete action that makes the world a better place. We can talk with friends and family about the things we care about, the causes we support, and what we want for the future.

By starting small - gathering with relatives to volunteer or joining with friends at work to combine charitable gifts - each of us can help make a bigger difference.

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