A personal request to give

Panhandling is a problem on so many levels. When the “Parents Talk Back” online forum asked, “How do you deal with the questions that arise when your kids see panhandlers?” most parents agreed with Dan Buck, chief executive of St. Patrick Center, the largest provider of homeless services in Missouri: stop giving your change. Donate instead to a charity that can help them.

“I explain…that’s why we give to the church, who in turn can take care of these people.”

“If you want, give to the church, Salvation Army, St. Patrick’s center, places that can help them.”

“I say this is why we give to charities.”

At least that’s what people say they do to address this social need. St. Louis-based National Center for Parents as Teachers, the largest home visiting program in the nation, is about half-way through its 25th anniversary campaign. It, too, is a charity…one that helps many of the neediest families find parenting support to help them make good choices during their children’s crucial early years of development. About two-thirds of all the families served by Parents as Teachers programs across the nation last year fell into the “high needs” category.

It takes money to train those who do this kind of work and to sustain the programs that serve this needy demographic. Giving USA estimates that $307.65 billion was given in the U.S. in 2008. Only charities in the religious, public-society benefit, and international affairs arenas showed increases in contributions. Education-focused charities saw a decrease of 5.5 percent.

A significant number of Americans do not donate at all because (gasp!) they’ve never been asked.

Consider yourself asked. Would you join me in supporting the work of the National Center for Parents as Teachers with an online gift?