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Commentary: In Loudoun, a mismatch between need and affluence

Meet Susan. She’s represents an average donor in Loudoun County. Susan might surprise you.

Susan is great. But, chances are, she leaves Loudoun County every day for work. (50 percent of Loudoun residents do.) That commute negatively affects Susan’s ties to her community with fewer business connections and probably less knowledge of her community.

Susan’s household income is $120,000 or more, just like a substantive majority of households in the county. The quality of life in Loudoun County, named one of the happiest counties in the U.S., is good.

Like most of her Loudoun neighbors, Susan donates about two percent of her discretionary income to charity. That’s one percent lesst han the average American donating three precent to charity.

As explained by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “A Mismatch Between Need and Affluence,” American communities with high standards of living often have low charitable giving rates.

American citizens who don’t come into immediate contact with “need” give less. That describes Loudoun County to a “T.” Loudoun needs aren’t in your face.

The last Point in Time study in Loudoun County tallied 113 homeless citizens. Susan has never knowingly seen a homeless person in her neighborhood.

The largest local food pantry, Loudoun Hunger Relief, serves 15,000 people. She can’t see hungry people on her commute.

Loudoun Cares, our local information and referral hotline, processed more than 4,000 referrals for people seeking help in rent and utility assistance, clothing, and more. But, those folks don’t call Susan.

Loudoun County Department of Family services provides supplemental day-care support for 315 low-income qualifying households, allowing parents to get into the workforce with a hand up, rather than a hand out. Sadly, last November, it had 500 families on a waiting list. Susan doesn’t think she knows those people.

And, let’s face it. Loudoun County’s poverty rate of 3.7 percent compared to that of the nation’s at 15.9 percent may seem a bit, well, anticlimactic. But, 3.7 percent is where we are. That’s where about 14,000 of our neighbors are.

Here’s what Susan and I like about the 3.7 percent.. We can move this needle. We can get ahead of this curve. With increased awareness and increased charitable giving, we can lower that number, if not keep it in check, even as Loudoun County continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in America. Loudoun County has the capable charities to meet the needs; let’s give them a full share of the resources to make it happen.

So, give it up, Loudoun County. Know your neighbors. Let’s get Loudoun County mean donors to spread that happiness factor, for all.


Amy Owen is the executive director of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, a partner with the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) in a project to identify needs and gaps in Loudoun County and assemble a think-tank team to tackle them. The Community Foundation and WRAG are working jointly to undertake a community awareness campaign to elevate the face of need and spotlight volunteers in Loudoun County called the Faces of Loudoun.

Comments


Dante, I’m sorry if I struck a nerve with you, I honestly did not mean to do so. Just making the point that many who have been gouged by Mr. Obama and the Democrat party the past eight years have no more capacity to give, and the most needy are unfortunately the unintended victims of the Obama policies.


JPL - the 45% of families that you state are the ones that need help.  Stop being so angry and accept the fact that there are people living here in Loudoun that are not as fortunate as yourself.


This is not a new phenomenon nor limited to Loudoun county.  I remember a line in a book about an out of work man trying to knock on doors willing to work for food, probably Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” The man tries a number of wealthy homes but was always turned away. He tried a modest home, and the woman who answered appeared to have also been suffering from the Great Depression, but she had him do some work in her yard in exchange for a sandwich.  He remarked about it being easier to get a hand-out from a poor person than from a rich one.

 

 


Hold on here.  You are soliciting a solution for which there is no problem.  I choose not to donate to others that I have never observed, never met, and will never know.  I don’t believe in long-distance charity since it often seems more about the giver than the receiver.  I will continue to do what I can, in private, when nobody can see.


min. 10% donations by this religious liberal & many others-
but “debbie downer” can stereotype alternative facts all you wish-
we choose to spread happiness & love, not fear & loathing


Ms. Owen is omitting a very important part of this equation. Susan and others in her income range are paying far more in income taxes than others. Remember also that 45% of families pay zero income taxes. The cold hard fact is that much of those taxes fund welfare programs, which are benefiting many of those who would benefit from the charities Susan is not giving to. And while there is some tax advantage to donating, it is not nearly significant enough to cover the delta. While studies are inconclusive about the relationship between tax rates and charitable giving, I’m guessing that the dramatic expansion of the welfare state spearheaded by President Obama and the Democrat party, and the wasteful government spending in general, has soured many on giving. There is also a perception – fair or unfair – that many are “gaming the system”.  In this regard, legitimate charities are the hidden victims of the “tax the rich” class warfare policies that very much impact the Loudoun demographic.


You didn’t mention religious faith, which I know is a problem for many liberals, because religious people tend to donate more as a percentage of income.


Thank you for this, Ms. Owen. One is reminded of lyrics to the Randy Newman song “The World Isn’t Fair”: “... Just like I’m glad I’m living in the land of the free. Where the rich just get richer. And the poor you don’t ever have to see.”

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