It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means: It’s the season of the usual rash of articles about how Southern Nevadans have all the charitable spirit of a cold sore. Yeah, thanks for the total downer, media, by reminding us that Nevada ranks last in the nation for volunteerism — oh, and that we’re pretty awful, too, when it comes to philanthropic giving.
I can’t dispute the symptoms, but I can take issue with the disease. See, the usual culprit fingered for the cause of our collective Scroogeosity is the lurid secret that we’re not even really people here in Southern Nevada, but rather an inherently selfish strain of jerkface pirate who’ll shiv anyone dumb enough to stand between us and our $4 latte, our smartphone and our Netflix queue.
Come on! Are we really that bad? In my own little optimist’s heart, I’ve got to throw out an alternative explanation. Maybe it’s not because we’re a bunch of viciously solipsistic consumatroid zombies; maybe it’s because of a lack of information. Maybe it’s because we’re not aware of how many excellent opportunities there are for volunteerism, for charity, for giving — opportunities that tie in to our own unique passions and pastimes. So, when we were putting together our Holiday Guide, in addition to the eye-popping parade of gift ideas and gotta-go holiday events, we also included a Get Involved guide (page 46).
There, you’re sure to find something to nail the bull’s-eye on your do-gooder sweet spot. Some of the organizations in need of help are novel and innovative — for instance, check out Nevada Women’s Philanthropy. Its model is powerfully simple: Members pay $5,000 a year each, annually dropping their pooled money in one gigantic chunk of happiness on one very lucky nonprofit after a grueling application process and some pretty intense debate (this year, the Salvation Army won out, getting $325,000). Or maybe you’re into something more warm and fuzzy — literally. Consider helping White Horse Youth Ranch, which teaches basic horsemanship to at-risk kids, encouraging responsibility and building character along the way. Sports nuts should consider the Miracle League, which needs volunteers and team sponsors to continue helping mentally and physically disabled children feel the satisfying crack of a home run hit.
We often imagine volunteerism and public service as a form of drudgery detached from our own tastes and likes. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong — in fact, there’s everything right — with picking a cause that’s personally relevant or that ties in to a passion of yours. So, when you’re done shopping for the perfect gift, consider giving of yourself this season as well — the real perfect gift.
Not to brag or anything, but — actually, yes, let me brag a little bit: Desert Companion took home several prizes from the Nevada Press Association awards, held Oct. 15 in Virginia City. The annual contest celebrates excellence in journalism in all forms. This year, Desert Companion won 13 awards, including four first place prizes. Desert Companion Art Director Chris Smith — who isn’t so much a person as a high-intensity beam of pure productivity, not only designing Desert Companion every month, but also creating ads, promotional graphics and reports for the entire Nevada Public Radio mother ship — was responsible for three of them, including Best Overall Design, Best Portrait and Best Cover Design (an honor shared by photographers Sabin Orr and Madison Alexander). Little ol’ me won a first in Best Feature for a story on antiquarian book dealer David Bauman. Writer Pattie Thomas took second for Best Investigative or In-Depth Story for her piece exploring the importance of adaptable housing for Southern Nevada’s aging population, and David McKee took second for Best Entertainment Writing for his insightful profiles. Congratulations to all the winners. The biggest winner of all: You, the reader. Your trophy? You’re totally holding it!