If you read today’s Charlotte Observer you probably know that many of our local charities are in a bind.

The economic recession means more of our friends and neighbors are out of jobs, out of homes and, in some cases, out of hope. At the same time, community sharing has taken a hit.

Local charities say demand is great, yet some of those groups now face budget cuts of 30–50 percent. Many of the families they serve are black and Latino.

In times like these, it’s not enough to simply hope for better days.

As African Americans, we share a long and proud history of helping those among us who are worse off than ourselves. For some, that meant slipping a few extra dollars to the palm of a college student who needed cash as much as encouragement. Others have given food or clothing when they saw need next door. That’s just the way we are; it’s part of our noble heritage.

Today, the concept of “community” has become more nebulous. The “need” that was once so obvious may now live miles away, unseen.

For that reason, Qcitymetro.com is linking its readers to the Observer’s online Giving Guide for Mecklenburg County. You can use this directory to identify nonprofit groups that need your help. You can search based on the services a charity provides or based on location.

Cash is badly needed, of course, but not all donations are monetary. Many of us store away clothing, tools, furniture and houseware that could greatly assist a family in crisis.

And then there is the gift of time.

I recently attended a “Real Men Read” program at three Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools — Alexander elementary, Morehead elementary and Martin middle. Principals at those schools had invited men to spend 30 minutes reading aloud to students. They wanted the children, most of them minorities, to see and understand that real men do read books.

Fathers, uncles, brothers, friends and business professionals showed up. The oldest volunteer was 80-plus-year-old Hoyle Martin (insert), a former member of Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County commission. TIAA-CREF sent about 32 men.

Will Charnock, a volunteer, donated more than 20 copies of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” the chosen book for the day.

Morehead Principal Crystal Agurs said about 70 men volunteered. She had hoped for at least 100.

In a school district that serves mostly black and Latino children, not nearly enough of the volunteers were African American.

Agurs said she hopes to make “Real Men Read” an annual thing. Next year’s event should be overflowing with men representing black churches, fraternities and community groups.

To volunteer, call the main office at Morehead elementary: (980) 343-5775.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the Observer’s Giving Guide.

Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com.

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