Many people believe that foundations and corporations are the backbone of giving in America. Their contributions are essential, but so is giving by individual Americans.

American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016. Total giving rose 2.7 percent in current dollars from the revised estimate of $379.89 billion for 2015.

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Charitable giving from individuals, foundations and corporations all increased in 2016.

Giving to all major categories of recipient organizations grew, making 2016 just the sixth time in the past 40 years that has occurred. The rise in total giving was spurred largely by giving from individuals, which increased nearly 4 percent in 2016.

Report highlights include:

• * Giving to religion increased 3 percent.

• * Giving to education is estimated to have increased 3.6 percent.

• * Giving to human services increased by an estimated 4 percent.

• * Giving to foundations is estimated to have increased by 3.1 percent.

• * Giving to health organizations is estimated to have increased by 5.7 percent.

• * Giving to public-society benefit organizations increased by an estimated 3.7 percent.

• * Giving to arts, culture, and humanities is estimated to have increased 6.4 percent.

• * Giving to environment and animal organizations is estimated to have increased 7.2 percent.

Not surprisingly, the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons bring out the best in people for giving. More than half of all donations typically are made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But even the organizations that are known for Christmas relief remind everyone: Need knows no season.

Today we offer the annual “Community of Giving” special section. It features an overview of local philanthropic organizations and how they impact our community. The section introduces you to the volunteer efforts of many of your friends and neighbors and how they experience the joy of helping others -- and is a list of organizations deserving of your help now and year-round.

Included are:

• The Salvation Army — The mission of The Salvation Army is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.

• Orangeburg County Community of Character — The initiative, with family at its core, brings together people from the fields of education, business, industry, faith, government, media and private citizens to help develop ways to strengthen character.

• CASA/Family Systems — The agency provides services to the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence as well as to the perpetrators of those crimes.

• Community Foundation for Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties — Its focus is on making a sustainable impact on the community. Donors can establish endowments to benefit non-profit organizations and provide scholarships to students graduating from high school.

• Orangeburg County Library — The library’s mission is to educate, inform and enrich the people of Orangeburg County.

• Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Foundation — The OCtech Foundation supports student scholarships, capital improvements on campus, professional development for faculty and staff, and special projects undertaken by the college.

• Edisto Habitat for Humanity -- Habitat partners with individuals and businesses to make home ownership possible. Families who receive habitat homes put work into building their own homes and building for others.

• The Regional Medical Center Foundation — The foundation is the philanthropic umbrella for the Regional Medical Center and funds hospital operations, clinical services and community programs to improve the quality of life for area residents.

• Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association – Founded in 1992, DORA is dedicated to the revitalization of Downtown Orangeburg between Amelia Street to the north, John C. Calhoun Drive to the south, Boulevard to the east and Riverside Drive to the west.

We urge you to take time to review and read the “Community of Giving” special section today. It will show you just how much good will there is in our community year-round. And it may motivate you to give and/or get involved.

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