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New year promises more collaboration

The Christmas season is a wonderful time to help families in need. In fact, a large portion of charitable giving in America occurs during the month of December. Holiday programs throughout the country provide unique opportunities for Americans to share the gift of Christmas with others. Each year, my staff in Washington delivers toys and clothes as part of the Elf Program with Horton’s Kids, a mentoring organization for underprivileged children in the D.C. area. Our state team also collects gifts for children in Mississippi through Toys for Tots.
We can be proud of Mississippi’s enduring reputation for generosity – around the holidays and throughout the year. In October, a new report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that our state again has one of the highest rates of charitable giving in the nation, second only to Utah. The study, which compared IRS data from 2006 to 2012, also showed that lower-income Americans give at higher rates than those with the biggest paychecks.
‘Give, and It Shall Be Given Unto You’
In Mississippi, where disasters like Hurricane Katrina and severe tornadoes have devastated communities in recent years, the importance of giving is witnessed firsthand. Mississippians understand why kindness matters because we are grateful for the efforts of others in our times of need. Since Katrina, for example, more than 1 million volunteers have lent their time and energy to help our state. Mississippians have done their part, too, serving more than 27 million volunteer hours over the past 20 years.
Most of us in Mississippi realize that the benefits of service are twofold, helping both those who receive and those who give. That message is found in Luke 6:38 where Jesus reminds us, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Shakespeare wrote in “The Merchant of Venice” that mercy “is twice bless’d. It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.” Indeed, research shows that volunteers reap tangible rewards from their service. Volunteering is associated with a 27 percent increase in securing employment.
Mississippi Group Launches New Model for Service
Now Mississippi is poised to expand the value of volunteering, civic engagement, charitable donations, and the work of nonprofit organizations. A new initiative called Engage Mississippi will be launched next year to foster collaboration within our communities, ensuring that charitable investments and volunteer efforts are maximized. Spearheaded by Volunteer Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, this innovative alliance plans to create an economic model that helps nonprofits, businesses, churches, and universities target the best use of their resources. Communities are strengthened when businesses and organizations work together.
Engage Mississippi will change the ways that various groups can give back, organizing outreach to promote a collective impact. Traditionally, groups have served independently, helping their neighbors but not fully achieving the widespread gains that a coordinated effort could accomplish. By involving multiple stakeholders, Engage Mississippi seeks to find long-term solutions to our state’s most critical issues. The alliance will provide an essential conduit for serving beyond this season of giving.
I hope the holidays are a special time for you and your family. Charles Dickens summed it best in his famous “Christmas Carol” after Scrooge realizes the significance of compassion and charity. He proclaims, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” In many ways, this is our calling, too.

By Roger Wicker