The start of a new year is a good time to look around our community, identify its needs and evaluate your contribution to the overall picture.

If you see glaring needs, or ways a good community could be even better, consider possible solutions.

Are existing groups working toward the goals you think are important? If so, have you participated in the process?

If needs are not being addressed, does a new organization need to be created? How could you help?

It may sound like I am placing a lot of responsibility on individuals – and I am. Successful communities are not created by organizations; it’s people singly and in groups who identify and solve problems.

One of the main ways individuals multiply their power to affect the community is through non-profit organizations devoted to specific projects. Such a group might raise money and stage programs to support a library, a school, a neighborhood or even another group of people such as teenagers, the elderly, recent immigrants, battered women, the homeless or others.

Some non-profit organizations – such as the YMCA, schools and churches – provide programs for anyone who wants to participate. Those who can pay for programs do, but those who cannot pay are also served.

The responsibility for providing this access lies with the non-profit organization. But the responsibility for providing funding and volunteer assistance to make the services possible lies with the community – and ultimately with you and me as individuals.

You probably receive a number of calls, letters or personal requests throughout the year from non-profit groups that need money to keep their programs alive. Some of us are blessed with the ability to give generously, and some of us can give only a little.

One thing you may not have considered is that non-profits need more than money – they need your time and expertise. In fact, time equals money. If it wasn’t for the thousands of people who volunteer throughout the City, non-profit groups would have to spend more money hiring employees and less on services.

Regardless of your socioeconomic background, age, profession, religion or education, you have talents and skills that are valuable to non-profits.

If you own or manage a business, you also have time, talent, expertise – and, yes, money that can help improve your community through the efforts of non-profits.

You also have something else that can be a vital force: influence. The programs you, your company and your employees become involved in make a statement about your business and its commitment to the community. When you participate, you lead by example.

In giving of our time and money through non-profit organizations, we become an integral part of the community. We have a stake in its success and failure. We are taking a stand for what we believe in, not just talking about problems we wish other people would solve.

We are not just residents, we are citizens. We belong.

One example in our area is the East Dallas YMCA. Volunteers help us raise money for the annual Youth Sponsorship Campaign. These funds enable East Dallas children, teens and families to participate in YMCA programs. The campaign starts in January, with a goal of $54,000 this year. Your pledge gives us the financial resources to be a part of the solution.

I strongly urge you to make 1994 the year you commit or recommit yourself to the community. Involve not only yourself, but family, friends and associates. Take the time to learn more about our community by listening to requests for support from non-profit organizations such as the YMCA and finding ways to make a meaningful contribution.

Working together, we can make a difference.

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