A high-stakes competition

Richard Eckstrom S.C. Comptroller

The S.C. Comptroller’s Office is locked in a fierce contest.

My office is competing against the state Department of Agriculture and the state Treasurer’s Office in a good-natured effort to see who can collect the most food for charity. The collected items will be donated to Harvest Hope Food Bank, a charity food pantry that serves 20 counties ranging from the Upstate to the Midlands and Pee Dee areas. Our food drive runs through mid-August, and we will weigh the donations to determine the winner.

Even in the best of times, it’s important to help those in need. When people serve their less fortunate neighbors it improves the quality of life of the entire community.

I probably don’t have to remind anyone that these are not the best of times. Across the nation, unemployment remains painfully high. Washington solutions that were supposed to “create jobs” have failed to do so. Many Americans remain worried about their personal financial futures, wondering whether they’ll have employment, how they’ll send their kids to college… even how they’ll pay next months’ bills.

As concerns about the economy force people to carefully monitor their household budgets and tighten their purse-strings, an unfortunate side effect is that charities also feel the pinch. There are simply fewer donors, and those who donate are giving less. At the same time, many charities have seen an increase in requests for assistance from those seeking help with food, housing and bill payments.

Additionally, the summer months are always a difficult time for food pantries and other charities. While the spirit of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season move people to give during that time of year, there are often too many distractions and fewer food drives during the summer. Unfortunately, hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation.

There are many ways we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people facing tough times. A fun and rewarding way is to host a charity-drive competition. Why not organize such a contest through your office, church, school or recreation center, and challenge other groups to do the same?

My staff and I hold these competitions regularly. It’s always an enjoyable experience, a great team building exercise, and an effective way to help replenish food pantry shelves. It’s also a necessary reminder of the plight of so many who struggle daily just to meet their basic needs.

When those who have the resources to meet their own needs share with those who do not, everyone wins.