Friends, neighbors help where need is greatest

By Senator Mike Morrell
Thursday, February 18, 2016

Published in: San Bernardino Sun

Each February for the last five years, I have had the privilege of participating in the Unforgettable Heart Awards, an annual event to honor charities and volunteer organizations throughout the Inland Empire for the work they do in our community.

It is put on by The Unforgettables Foundation, whose mission it is to aid families who have lost a child and do not necessarily have the means to pay for funeral or burial costs.

When it comes to serving their neighbor, groups like this one are the boots on the ground. They are personally and intimately acquainted with the unique needs they see every day. It is amazing the work they and others do.

The role of private charity in American life has been a tradition in our nation since before its founding. We hear it in the words of Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop who in 1630 called on the people “to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God…make others’ conditions our own.” 

Winthrop’s appeal continues to bear out today. Earlier this year, the Philanthropy Roundtable released “The Almanac of American Philanthropy.” Among its findings, the data showed that as a nation, the United States donates the highest percentage of its GDP in the world. Americans’ voluntary donation rate is anywhere from double to 20 times higher than the rate of countries similar in wealth. In a given year 7 out of 10 Americans will donate to a charitable cause.

And they have justification to help these organizations do their work. Top charities, such as the American Red Cross and World Vision, use approximately 90 cents of every dollar donated to the direct benefit of those they intend to serve. This often contrasts with government which can offer lifetime retirement and health benefits, increasing their administrative costs.

In recent weeks and months, we have seen an incredible outpouring of similar support for the victims and families of the December 2 terror attack in San Bernardino. I, like many in our region, have been truly humbled by the response.

Through this tragedy, we have been reminded of the strength and goodwill of community that is at its best when the need presenting itself is the greatest. They have lifted up one another in prayer and service and donated financial resources when possible from picnics to the internet.

The San Bernardino United Relief Fund, started by Arrowhead United Way and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, has raised over $2.25 million from people all over the country, with the pledge that all the money will go to victims and their families, not administrative costs.

A GoFundMe site set up by San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis and the City Council has collected over $125,000 in donations. The Redlands group “Bonded & Strong” worked with local businesses to raise $45,000. The Inland Empire 66ers Professional Baseball Club raised over $26,000 through its "SB Strong" benefit t-shirt sale. Numerous other groups and residents have also started their own pages and fundraising efforts.

I have always been honored to represent our area in the state legislature and never have I been prouder to do so than over these last weeks and months.

During the darkest times, the lights of many are shining through. They are coming together to do what only friends and neighbors can do, not government.

The people of the Inland Empire have consistently met the call to “make others’ conditions their own.” It is because of this spirit that I am confident San Bernardino will remain strong.