I never lose sight of the importance of community journalism, but it still doesn’t make it much fun to look at a lot of the content on our website or in our newspaper each day. Certainly, we’ve had some horrific crime stories of late, but those anomalies are going to occur, unfortunately. It’s more what we’re covering — or not covering given all the great events that have been canceled or pushed online — that’s endemic to 2020 that gets me down.
COVID-19 overshadows all else. Numbers of cases so far outside what we ever thought we’d see in Carroll County and Maryland have become the norm and we’ve now lost more people across the country to this virus than we lost in World War II. Then we have the constant back-and-forth about the efficacy of masks, the thankfully shrinking group that believes it all to be a hoax and the looming fight over the vaccine.
Outside of the health ramifications, we have local restaurants and retail businesses struggling as they try to operate under regrettable but necessary restrictions during what should be their busiest time. And then there’s school. Student grades have declined significantly year over year, parents are either outraged that kids aren’t in school buildings right now or outraged that they may be sent back soon and teachers are caught in the middle, seen by some as selfish because they have the nerve to be concerned about their health.
When people aren’t fighting about the coronavirus, they’re fighting about politics. Trump. Biden. McConnell. Pelosi. Hogan. The Electoral College The stimulus package. The rigged election/attempted coup, depending on one’s perspective. The columnists, guest authors from the community and letter-writers in our Opinion section seem angrier than ever. Makes me long for the odd letter of yesteryear thanking a firefighter for getting a cat out of a tree.
It sometimes makes it a little difficult to get going at the beginning of each week — harder still when Monday morning means getting yelled at, hung up on, called a disgrace and instructed to leave the country before even the first cup of coffee has been drained. Sometimes you just need something to feel good about.
At this time of year, at least, we’ve got something on our site and in our pages every single day that I do feel good about — that, really, the entire community should feel good about — in Holiday Hope, the campaign we’ve been doing since the late-1990s in which we help raise funds for local nonprofits.
This isn’t a pat on the back because we’re just the middle men, so to speak. The nonprofits — Access Carroll, Carroll County Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice, Human Services Programs of Carroll County and The Shepherd’s Staff — do the work, helping those who need it. The readers, the members of the community, send in the generous donations. NWSB Bank processes the funds. We just solicit contributions from people and try to highlight those who do. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million has been generated this way since the inception of the campaign.
The money that gets donated might help someone with little money and no insurance get dental work. Or stock the shelves at a food bank. It might pay for some extra comfort for a grandparent in their final days. It might help a family keep a roof overhead this winter. Or maybe it will provide some warm clothes or school supplies for an at-risk youth.
Our goal this year is $125,000 and given all that has happened in 2020, from unemployment to businesses closing to real uncertainty about the future, I wondered if that was realistic. But we’re more than halfway to the goal and the selfless leaders and volunteers of the nonprofits could not be more appreciative.
I’ll concede that in a different life, long ago, when my ties to the community were largely limited to sports, I didn’t pay much attention to Holiday Hope. Now, my favorite part of the day is going to the post office to see how many new donations have come in to be taken to NWSB Bank.
It’s a good feeling to play a small part. But it’s an even better feeling to know that so many Carroll County residents — many of whom would find themselves arguing angrily about the election or masks or in-person learning if they got together — can at least agree on this, helping to make a difference in people’s lives.
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Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.