The drop-off in donations to Baltimore area charities and social service organizations during this holiday season hasn't been felt in Howard County. While other suburbs say a bad economy has discouraged charitable giving, groups in Howard report that donations have remained at least the same as in recent years. They expect the Christmas season to be equally rich with contributions.
The easy answer to why Howard has fared better than all other area counties would be to suggest that the county's relative affluence has insulated it against the economy's downturn. But the leaders of social service groups in the county say otherwise; that Howard residents have been as affected by the recession as the rest of Maryland. They say, instead, that Howard residents have become accustomed to giving generously to the relatively few local charities within a comparatively small county.
In the final analysis, the lack of competition among charities and the relatively small population of needy individuals appears to have given Howard an advantage in meeting community needs.
The local branch of the Salvation Army reports that things are going well as it prepares to provide food and toys for up to 700 families this Christmas.
Officials at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center say that while corporate giving has fluctuated in recent years, church and individual donations will probably carry them through the holidays as they provide service to 30 families and 50 individuals.
Meanwhile, the county's Domestic Violence Center reports that an array of corporate, church and individual contributors are aligned to provide holiday support to about 35 needy families this year.
Judy Clancy, who handles contributions for the center, said Howard charities fare particularly well because people can see first-hand how their donations help. When the number of agencies is many or the charitable group is large -- the United Way of Central Maryland, for example -- the connection between those who give and those who receive is more remote.
The economy, coupled with scandals such as the one that struck the national United Way last year, are also factors that must be considered in the decline of charitable giving.
Whatever its source, Howard's good fortune translates into a happier holiday all around.