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Gainesville recognized for generosity
Publication ranks city No. 76 in nation for giving
Boxes of chicken are unloaded Saturday afternoon from a Georgia Mountain Food Bank truck at Gainesville First United Methodist Church as food for the needy is distributed to delivery partners of the Food Bank.

While Christmas is sometimes seen as a season of getting, Gainesville residents have proven they believe it truly can be better to give than to receive.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication for nonprofits, the city of Gainesville ranks No. 76 in generous giving out of 366 major metropolitan areas in the United States. With a median discretionary income of $54,803 per year, Gainesville residents give approximately 5.9 percent of it to charities.

This comes to a total contribution amount of $78,560,648.

“Our community has always been very generous,” said Lt. Matt Cunningham, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Gainesville. “Every time there’s been a need, people here have always stepped up and answered. The generosity of this community is really excellent.”

Cunningham added that, like most charities, the Salvation Army sees giving pick up around the holiday season but that people are willing to give of themselves year-round.

“We experience more donations around Christmastime because that’s our biggest fundraiser. However, throughout the year, whether it’s donating monetarily, their time, in our store or whatever we have going on, there’s always somebody who’s willing to give,” Cunningham said.

For example, the Salvation Army heard about a family of three children whose mother had perished in a house fire this summer and whose father had died from heart problems around the same time. The children’s aunt and uncle, who already had one child of their own, went from a family of three to six after taking in the orphaned children.

After alerting the community of the needs of this family, a local business came forward wanting to provide Christmas gifts for the children.

But according to Cunningham, community givers show up frequently in situations like this.

“A lot of times, people have some really drastic needs,” Cunningham said. “But I can truly say this is a community that cares about its neighbors.”

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said that even during a time with a downward economy, giving to those in need has remained a priority in the community.

“We have seen an increase in the number of people looking for emergency food assistance, but we’re really blessed,” Blackstock said. “We’ve really seen an outpouring of people coming to help, and we have volunteers here everyday who want to come and help. We’ve seen donations increasing, food drives have increased, people have definitely given their time and we certainly have financial contributions. We’re fortunate that we’ve had that community support.”

Blackstock also credits the “generosity of the community” for the food bank’s new location at 1642 Calvary Industrial Drive in Gainesville.

“It gives people more ways to help,” Blackstock said of the new facility, adding that the food bank distributed 251,000 pounds of food in November alone.

And while Gainesville’s adults are known for giving, its children have also helped build a reputation for generosity.

“Our children are really engaged and leading the way. We have already launched our 2013 Kids Against Hunger campaign partly because of children in schools getting excited about collecting pounds of food and donations,” Blackstock said.

Parents have also been anxious this Christmas to bring their children to volunteer at the food bank while they are on break from school, Blackstock added.

“The children like to carry the food around and weigh it to see how much they’ve donated,” Blackstock said. “There are so many charities struggling to survive and so much uncertainty right now, I think more people are aware and can completely relate to families struggling. We definitely see more people giving, but that’s really no surprise with this community.”