The United States has a rich and long history demonstrating the importance of non-profit organizations to the overall well-being of our country. Ranging from education to civil rights to healthcare, non-profits have affected virtually every aspect of our communities, providing an organized manner in which to grant a voice to the needs of a variety of citizens.
Today’s non-profits can trace their roots back to 17th century England and the passage of the Statute of Charitable Uses, which outlined what purposes private monies not channeled through the government via taxation could be used for the public good. Freedom of religion, protected in the United States by the First Amendment of the Constitution, provided many organizations in America the opportunity to collect funding to promote social welfare programs without government interference. This, combined with the right to assembly, paved the way for different groups to form in order to promote and support a wide range of issues and needs within our communities.
Today, over 83% of Americans donate to charitable organizations each year, and with good reason. It was a non-profit organization that funded the country’s first women’s college, Mount Holyoke. In 1727, a non-profit girls’ school in New Orleans introduced racial integration. In the early 1900’s, nuns who moved to Joplin to help run a Catholic school saw a need for medical care to be provided for the men who worked the mines and set out to build St. John’s Hospital, which continues to be one of the largest health care providers in the region. Social, religious, and political beliefs have all fostered the growth and success of various non-profit organizations throughout the years, and non-profits continue to be an integral force in our communities.
Contributing to your local non-profit organizations is crucial for their survival. While all charitable organizations need financial support, they also often need volunteers for their day-to-day operations. Some of my favorite non-profits in Joplin are: Art Feeds, Bright Futures, Spiva, Downtown Joplin, and the Ozark Center for Autism. Of course, since the tornado, many local and national organizations have helped with our recovery, and out of these my favorite local group is Homes of Hope, Joplin, which operates a thrift store to help finance rebuilding homes for families displaced by last year's storm. Take some time to find out more about the non-profits in your community. I’m sure you will find it mutually beneficial to get involved with one or more of them!
What are your favorite hobbies? How can you use your interest and skills to help a local non-profit organization?