The Roman philosopher Cicero once remarked that “the shifts of fortune test the reliability of friends.”
In Henderson County, residents have apparently passed that test and emerged as part of a remarkably generous community. While dollars donated are down, according to the executives of several not-for-profit organizations in Henderson County, the number of individual donors has risen. This reflects what some say is a trend in gift giving across the county.
“This is a wonderful community,” says Rev. Anthony McMinn, the CEO of Hendersonville Rescue Mission. “When people here find out that people are in need, they really reach out. I don’t think there is anywhere in the state that comes together like Hendersonville. Most of our donors are not wealthy, but they are loyal and they believe in what we do.”
The mission has a small paid staff and a roster of 140 volunteers. “We absolutely could not do what we do without our volunteers,” says McMinn.
Pamela M. Daubert, the director of resource development for United Way of Henderson County, has seen among county residents a similar willingness to help. While corporate donations are down somewhat this year, she says, the organization’s residential campaign set a new record. The average individual donation in one sector, for example, rose from $336 last year to $379 this year.
Daubert is optimistic about future campaigns, but knows the organization has its work cut out. “We have to look for new donors,” she says, “new companies, different marketing strategies. I think that there are plenty of dollars out there for the needs. We just have to find them.”
McCrey Benson, CEO of Henderson County’s Community Foundation, agrees that local residents have responded well to needs. However, he says, it’s important to remember that those needs will rise as the economy worsens. “The lines have gotten longer at the ‘needs’ level,” he points out. “People who have never had to ask for help are now showing up.”
It’s largely a matter of priorities at this point, he says. “Safety, hunger, health, and shelter…these are the things we need to shore up first.”
If there is a “bottom line” to all of this, perhaps Benson sums it up best: “We have to look out for our neighbors.”