Touched by Charity

By Barbara Risto

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One way or another we are all touched by charitable organizations.

I have personally benefited from dozens of charitable agencies and connected with hundreds more over the years.

One of my first careers was as the coordinator of an organization called Citizen’s Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helped members of the community connect with people with disabilities to provide friendship and support. What I learned through my job with this charitable organization was instrumental in my becoming a caregiver and strong advocate for a disabled family member. The values I adopted have carried over into every other job I have had since and, in many ways, have helped to shape the content and mission of Senior Living. A brush with charities, such as this, has created a strong personal belief in the principles of inclusiveness, respect, inspiration, self determination, and self actualization, regardless of one’s ability or age.

As I look over my life, I realize just how crucial many of these organizations has been to the quality of life I have enjoyed.

Our family has been supported by the Family Caregivers’ Network through emotionally trying times. We have been given advocacy support by the Victoria Association for Community Living whenever we’ve had to go head to head with government agencies over funding issues.

About five years ago, it was a brochure published by the Dystonia Association that provided me with the information to properly diagnose a family members’ condition that had doctors baffled for years. This association also linked us to a specialist to provide treatment and monitoring of the condition.

Citizen’s Counselling is a non-profit organization that helped our family deal with, and overcome, the pressures that grew out of our caregiving situation.

Our family also includes four furry members. The BCSPCA has been partly responsible for helped us build this diverse family and, in return, we have supported the SPCA through fostering expecting mother cats on occasion. The Victoria Cat Rescue Corps Society came to our rescue a number of years ago when we rescued a young mother cat from a nearby schoolyard. Unable at the time to afford the cost of spaying, this organization paid for the operation. ( I was able to later pay them back, adding a donation on top of that so that they could help someone else.)

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer about 15 years ago, the Cancer Society provided the information that helped us understand the condition, and potential treatments. A hospice organization offered respite and helped us through the grieving process.

Almost every year, we attend the Salvation Army’s Christmas Concert where gifts are collected for children of low income families. For more than 25 years, I have been a sponsor to a number of World Vision children. The list of charities that have been part of my life goes on and on…

Even though it might be difficult to put one’s finger on the exact nature of the connection, we are all impacted by the efforts and research accomplished by hundreds of health related organizations ranging from cancer to diabetes, Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. Cultural and environmental organizations may not be dramatically present in our everyday lives, but we cannot overlook their contribution to the beautification and protection of our world.

Where would we be without all these groups that step in to fill gaps that government can’t fill well, or, in some case, can’t fill at all - groups that work globally to protect the rights and freedoms of people under the rule of overbearing political regimes; groups that bring food, clothing, medical supplies and instruction to ease the suffering of people who often live without even the barest necessities.

I’m sure if we all sat down and wrote out a list of each and every charity that has touched our lives in one way or another, we would be surprised just how integral they are to the welfare of our society.

In general, non-profits and charities have had about a 35 per cent decrease in funds this year. The economic difficulties of 2009 have even forced some organizations to close their doors.

That is why I am encouraging every person who reads this article to consider putting the financial equivalent of at least one Christmas present toward some charitable endeavor. It may be a small thing to do, and perhaps there are some of you who can do much more than this, but if everyone reading this article would do just this one small thing, we could make a significant impact on the funding shortage that many worthy charities have experienced this year. Let’s see what we can do to end this year on a high note.

May this Christmas season serve to emphasis the goodness that is among us.

Barbara and Barry Risto and the Senior Living staff wish all our readers much health, happiness, and prosperity in 2010.





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