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Report shows Oregonians are generous during tough times

Recent study states that Oregon ranked in the top 20 for charitable giving in 2010

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Volunteers for The Oasis, Scott Green (left) and Ana Kramer, show several bags of cans that local residents have donated to the facility. Oasis manager Rich Will said the cans help pay the rent for their building.

Although many Oregonians continue to face high unemployment and other economic struggles, they have remained generous in the face of adversity.
   A new Giving in Oregon report, provided by the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) with assistance from the Giving in Oregon Council, revealed that Oregon ranked in the top 20 nationally for charitable giving in 2010. Nonprofits statewide reported nearly $1.5 billion in contributions to 10,369 organizations compared to about $1.7 billion in 2007.
   The report noted that individuals in Oregon gave 2.16 percent of their average gross income as opposed to 2.10 percent nationwide despite enduring an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent in 2010 versus 9.6 percent nationally.
   “What we found during the recession was that more people gave, but they gave lesser amounts of money,” said OCF communications director Joan Vallejo. She went on to attribute the generosity to a caretaker mentality in Oregon.
   “We like to think that there is sort of a greater sense of community in Oregon,” Vallejo said. “It’s a smaller west-coast state. People have historically taken care of each other.”
   Crook County appears to follow that trend, with 51 nonprofits having received $1,418,265 in 2010.
   “I just can’t believe how people come out of the woodwork to help their fellow Prineville-ians,” gushed Kate Erickson, treasurer of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Crook County board. “People give what they have and it’s just amazing.”
   She went on to say that a lot of churches in the community help support St. Vincent de Paul by giving contributions from their congregations each month to help the organization with rental and utility assistance.
   “I am just amazed at this town — I really am,” Erickson added. “People give what they have and it’s just amazing.”
   Rich Will, who manages The Oasis food bank in Prineville, gave the community similar praise. He made special mention of Crook County residents’ generosity during the recession.
   “When the economy was at its worst, we were actually doing pretty well financially. Because the economy was getting so much attention, we actually kind of benefitted from that attention,” he said. “The community really rallied together. People were bringing us food all the time and sending us money.”
   Although Oregon giving continued to outpace the national average, the Giving in Oregon report showed that the amount of money contributed has yet to return to pre-recession levels.
   The Crook County United Fund has seen the affects of the overall decline. Secretary Mike Mohan said their nonprofit has struggled for the past three years because of the recession. Employee contributions from private businesses have varied, he said, and giving from public employees has declined.
   At the same time, Mohan said that long-time donors have helped the organization in the face of declining contributions.
   “A lot of the businesses that have supported us over the past five to 10 years have been able to maintain their support,” he said.
   Although giving levels remain short of pre-recession levels, the report said that giving has begun to improve, giving some hope for more economic improvement down the road.
   “Individual giving by Oregonians shows signs of recovery from the recession,” the report stated.