How giving are people in Butler County? It is difficult to know.
The holiday season heightens our awareness of giving because there are a number of fundraising activities tied to Thanksgiving and Christmas. But county residents also give of their money and time all year long.
A review of many fundraising efforts published in the Butler Eagle this year puts monetary donations at at least $3.3 million that stays in the county.
Some fundraising efforts are big, such as the months-long campaign by the United Way of Butler County, which raised $1.7 million.
Others are significant such as the $168,000 raised by the two walks sponsored by the American Heart Association in Butler and Cranberry Township in October.
And many others are small such as an anonymous donor who continues to give $900 a year to cover the Slippery Rock Community Library's building maintenance and utility fees.
But according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, county residents gave away a total of $69.4 million.
Those donations cover all gifts including those to county organizations as well as to national or international groups such as religious organizations, colleges, medical institutions and foundations, according to Leslie Osche, executive director of the United Way of Butler County.
The chronicle figures show county residents gave a median contribution of $2,311, which is 3.7 percent of their median discretionary income of $62,000.
What exactly seems to encourage people to make these donations every year?
Osche said the first reason that spurs people to donate their time or money is who is doing the asking.
“It's about the person or the group that is asking for help,” Osche said. “Then, for most of us, we have been taught through our religious upbringing or moral development to give to those who are in need.”
Osche said giving to the United Way, which represents a number of nonprofit, community-based organizations and distributes the money it raises to designated groups, shows that the Butler County community trusts the United Way.
“Giving to the United Way is a vote of confidence by the community that the money they give will go to those in need,” she said.
Kevin Stansbury, Butler Health System's vice president of Business Development and Corporate Image, said people donate to the BHS Foundation's Caring Angel Program because they believe in the work of the program, which provides health care to children whose families cannot afford it.
“We also support our Crystal Ball and golf outing as well, and it's not because the events are fun, but because they believe in the mission supported by the events,” Stansbury said.
The Cranberry Township Community Chest tries to encourage residents and businesses to get involved with the community by volunteering, joining and supporting one of the 40 civic groups in the area.
“We believe the more residents and businesses are involved the more they are “connected” with the community ... it helps create a sense of community,” said Bruce Mazzoni, community chest secretary.
In its 13 years, the Cranberry CUP (Community Uniting People) has raised more than $1 million.
The organization works to pull the community together to make a difference, said Cathy Cortazzo, Cranberry CUP board president.
Each year it focuses on helping a family that is experiencing major medical and financial difficulties.
It does that, in part, by having a community softball tournament that brings neighborhoods together.
Cortazzo said the Cranberry CUP brings families together as they share the value of volunteerism and how they, as a family unit, can make a difference.
“Most importantly, the Inspirational Families remind the entire community that at any time, life can make a drastic turn,” she said.
Eagle staff writers Kelly Garrett and Bob Schultz contributed to this article.