WORLD Magazine’s current cover story is about hope in Afghanistan. This column is about hope in America. Occupy Wall Street cadres shout that selfishness rules America, but thousands of compassionate programs show that an odds-defying altruism remains. Some programs are Christian, some are secular—and let me say a few words about both kinds.
Regarding Christian ones: I had the privilege of handing out awards at the celebration dinner in Houston on Oct. 14 that concluded WORLD's sixth annual Hope Award for Effective Compassion competition. In January we asked our subscribers to nominate poverty-fighting ministries. We learned more about the nominated groups, selected finalists, sent reporters to profile and videotape programs, and chose regional winners, each of which received $5,000.
Our final four were Bowery Mission Women's Center (Northeast), Challenge House (South), Hope Now for Youth (West), and Victory Trade School (Midwest). Some 8,000 readers voted online to select the national winner, which was (drum roll) Victory Trade School of Springfield, Mo. You can read about them all and see videos at worldmag.com/compassion.
Victory received an additional $25,000 award. The priceless benefit for all four winners was the local and regional publicity they received. The priceless benefit for me at the Houston dinner was the opportunity to meet my heroes and heroines, the directors and volunteers at these programs who help others and receive for themselves little or no pay and not much recognition.
It's always great to congratulate the winners and then to look forward to next year. We'll officially ask for 2012 nominees in January, but while you're thinking about this I hope you'll send a note to June McGraw (firstname.lastname@example.org) giving the name of the organization you'd like to nominate and a sentence or two explaining why. She'll hold onto your nominations until we start researching the groups early next year.
The ideal nominee is local, small, and Christian not just in name but through having all aspects of its program based on Christ's teaching. It employs some professionals but also uses volunteers to offer challenging, personal, and spiritual help to the needy. It receives funds from individuals and churches, not government. It has a track record of proven effectiveness in helping to move individuals out of poverty.