Times are tough. Except for loan-sharks, foreclosure attorneys and federal bureaucrats, everyone these days is feeling the pinch of a tough economy.
That trickles down, naturally, to organizations that rely on donations. Churches and charities certainly aren't immune to the downturn.
And while a discussion about the propriety of donations by the county's government is best handled in good times when money is less an issue than principle, these financially difficult times make that discussion vital.
This comes as Columbia County commissioners are cutting a check - with taxpayer dollars - for a donation to the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army is a fine organization, and its Kroc Center - where the county's donation is headed - will be a tremendous boost for Augusta.
And commissioners say they like the fact that the $25,000 donation is a one-time offer, rather than an ongoing obligation.
But perhaps this would be less of an issue if, just a few months ago, the county had not rejected out of hand a request from Child Enrichment for exactly that amount.
Of course, Child Enrichment was seeking not just one grant, but hoping for an annual contribution of $25,000. But while the Salvation Army's Kroc Center will have a broad, regional focus, Child Enrichment specifically serves abandoned, physically abused, sexually abused and neglected children in Columbia, Richmond and Burke Counties. Last year, of the 318 forensic interviews the agency conducted for investigations, 115 were performed with Columbia County children.
It's important to note, too, that while $25,000 is an almost-negligible drop in the bucket of the $20 million the Salvation Army is raising to be eligible for the $67.8 million Kroc Foundation grant, $25,000 represents nearly 4 percent of Child Enrichment's annual budget.
Though unpleasant to ponder, it's natural that in a free market charities have to compete, too. And when weighing the local value of the Salvation Army vs. Child Enrichment, the latter organization is hands-down more essential to Columbia County and its families.
Whether a county government should be making charitable donations at all is certainly worth debating. But there's no question: Child Enrichment shouldn't go begging while the Salvation Army gets a check.
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