The Great Neck Rotary Club celebrated Thanksgiving this year, as it does every year, by donating turkey dinners to more than 20 local organizations which, in turn, delivered the food to families that would otherwise be left out of the festivities.
The donation of 1,100 dinners was the product of a fundraising campaign that spanned the North Shore, some sharp buying aided by a generous grocery store and the help of a whole lot of people.
When the Rotary Club went to the United States Merchant Marine Academy to bag up the items over the weekend, between 70 and 80 people assisted, club President Roger Chizever said.
Representatives from the Interact clubs of Manhasset and Great Neck, Girl Scouts, Key Club members and Great Neck Chinese Association “came out in force to help us,” Chizever said. “It’s just amazing to see the way people work together.”
In doing so, the Great Neck Rotary Club joined many other local organizations in the great American tradition of people coming to the aid of their less fortunate neighbors.
For this, we say thank you to all those involved in this effort and all the others across the North Shore.
The generosity of the Great Neck Rotary Club along with that of many other organizations provided an excellent kick off to “Giving Tuesday,” the Tuesday after Thanksgiving that marks the beginning of the season of charitable giving.
As the North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center explained in an email: “While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about consumerism, Giving Tuesday is about community.”
The Child Guidance was referring to an actual physical community such as the North Shore as opposed to the “virtual” kind online.
That virtual world is part of a trend that has diverted energy and membership from local service organizations and not-for-profits across the country — at a time when the need for those organizations could to be growing with talk in Congress of cuts to Medicare, health care and other social programs.
And the job of these service organizations and not-for-profits will only get harder under tax bills currently being considered by the House and Senate.
Currently, tax filers who itemize their deductions — about 30 percent of all taxpayers — can include charitable giving, along with state and local taxes, mortgage expenses and other items.
But under the House and Senate plans the standard deduction of $6,500 would be raised so high that a vast majority of taxpayers would no longer itemize and, therefore, receive no tax benefits for their charitable giving.
Many people support not-for-profits only because they believe in their work or feel it’s the right thing to do rather than the tax benefits of giving.
But not everyone shares their commitment.
Charities are particularly concerned that those who no longer itemize their deductions would include “many larger donors who tend to be mindful of the tax consequences of their gifts,” Ray Madoff, a law professor at Boston College, said in an op-ed in the New York Times.
Madoff said a recent report by Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates that charities could lose as much as $13 billion if the standard deduction is increased.
If the worse case scenarios come to pass, this will cause great pain to many.
There are steps that local charities and not-for-profits can take to offset the lost revenue.
The internet has in many cases been the enemy of local community engagement, but it has also been its friend with crowd-funding campaigns that have helped raised large sums of money for people and good causes.
Perhaps it can also be used to identify those organizations hurt by the loss of taxpayers who no longer benefit from itemizing their deductions.
It would be a sad commentary if not-for-profits had to adopt the techniques most frequently used in response to natural disasters to those created by members of Congress.
But some of organizations may have no other choice if they don’t want to see their mission curtailed.
And then there is just the feeling people receive from helping others.
Perhaps people will respond to the new challenges with the spirit of Thanksgiving and “Giving Tuesday” all year round.
We just hope there are enough members in Congress who share that feeling and will vote against a tax plan that discourages giving to those most in need.