A time to give

By 
  • February 19, 2010
{mosimage}In Charity in Truth Pope Benedict XVI described charity as “love received and given,” and as the 2010 ShareLife appeal is launched the pontiff’s words are being put to action.

In the archdiocese of Toronto a parishioner who has donated anonymously in the past stepped forward on the eve of this campaign with a pledge to match up to $500,000 in new money collected by ShareLife. Not only will every dollar from first-time donors be matched, but every dollar above last year’s contribution by previous donors will also be doubled by this nameless benefactor.

The generous parishioner said they wanted to find a way to inspire others to reach for their wallets at a time when the need has never been greater among ShareLife’s 33 agencies. He may also have been influenced by a similar campaign launched by the federal government in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. That month-long drive resulted in the government writing a cheque for $150 million to match donations by Canadians.

Coming so closely after the Haiti appeal, in which Toronto-area Catholics sent $3.7 million in earthquake relief to ShareLife, the organization faces a significant challenge in reaching its Lenten target of $12 million. That’s the same target as last year, when donations during a recession fell short of the goal by more than $500,000. The economy is improving but, as Haiti has demonstrated, so too have demands for charity.

Since its inception in 1976, ShareLife has evolved from being a local initiative established to fund eight  charities to an organization whose long reach not only touches 225,000 people each year in the archdiocese but countless others abroad, particularly when a disaster strikes. It has earned a reputation of respect and trust. In an industry in which high-profile charities such as World Vision and the Canadian Red Cross allocate 18 per cent and 17 per cent to administration and fundraising, ShareLife can be proud that 91 per cent of the money it collects goes back to charities.

Although ShareLife provides some overseas aid, its primary objective is to help local agencies that work on behalf of families, children, teens, single parents, the elderly and clergy, as well as for immigrants, refugees and people with special needs. ShareLife provides a valuable service when a disaster strikes. It is thankful to be regarded as a trusted guardian of Catholic charity, regardless of the cause, but ShareLife’s primary mandate is to provide care closer to home.

So it is essential that all those who have been watching tragedy unfold in Haiti now look in their own backyard and witness the need for help in our local communities. ShareLife is a call to stewardship and an opportunity to demonstrate the Christian value of almsgiving, always important but particularly poignant during Lent. This year, there is the additional incentive of a $500,000 matching pool of funds to be tapped into. So be generous.

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