Chandler Osborn, 14, watched Fox News coverage of Hurricane Sandy last week and decided to take action.
"Last weekend, me and my younger brother, Cooper, 7, did a fundraiser in Colorado Springs to help the people" affected by the storm, he told me. The siblings set up a table at the Colorado Springs Sugar Plum Festival, gave away patriotic car magnets and pins for any donations, and collected signatures on a giant banner of support for the victims. "We raised $612 in one weekend."
The Osborns joined countless Americans across the country who stepped up, in small and large ways, to help their fellow citizens in need. While this election season was a contentious battle between makers and takers, this Thanksgiving season is a time to honor the givers who keep the nation's private philanthropic spirit alive.
In times of crisis, it's individual citizens, churches, businesses and charitable organizations -- not federal government bureaucrats -- who mobilize first and fastest to provide aid and comfort. Tom Laureys noted in the Parsippany (New Jersey) Daily Record: "The first people to help Hurricane Sandy victims were the neighbors helping their neighbors for free. The Red Cross was the first organization to arrive to help. FEMA was the last. The FEMA workers stayed at the Soho Grand Hotel at $310 per night."
On Staten Island, a group of residents banded together, bought their own walkie-talkies, and provided the debris-clearing and water-pumping services that no one else was providing.
"We've done more for our community than FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard combined, directly hitting houses and people in need," Frank Recce, a 24-year-old longshoreman and Army Iraq War veteran who organized the "Brown Cross" group, told FoxNews.com.
Here in Colorado Springs, the raging Waldo Canyon wildfire brought volunteers of all political stripes together to support local first responders and help nearly 350 devastated families who lost their homes.
By the time President Obama arrived in Colorado nearly a full week after the fire ignited, churches, businessmen and civic groups had united to donate mountains of clothes, lend phones, shelter pets and open their homes to the displaced. The outpouring of compassion was so overwhelming that volunteers were turned away from shelters and centers.
The left-leaning Colorado Springs Independent, conservative Focus on the Family, Pikes Peak United Way, World Arena, the city's philharmonic and others raised more than a half-million dollars during a community benefit concert for the Waldo Canyon Victim Assistance Fund.
One organization, Care and Share, collected nearly 73,000 pounds of food and water for the brave firefighters who battled the blaze. On top of that, Care and Share volunteers distributed more than 440,000 pounds of food and water to affected residents. An amazing surplus remains: The group has 332,593 pounds of food and $379,032 in donations remaining to distribute for the holidays.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, America's top 50 donors gave a total of $10.4 billion in 2011. But it's the small, unsung acts of everyday giving and doing -- like the Osborn brothers' $612 or the Staten Island citizen brigade's do-it-yourself volunteerism -- that add up. In sum, Americans contributed $136 billion to charitable causes. The median discretionary income of the American giver? $54,783.
God bless America, the Charitable.