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Philanthropy Journal of North Carolina – War tests U.S. charities

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By Todd Cohen

While the U.S. fights for change in Iraq, U.S. charities need to fight for change at home.

The war will drain dollars and attention from domestic issues, so charities must push to keep us focused on the crushing social ills we face.

While the U.S. cut itself off from friends abroad by its ultimatums on Iraq, charities cannot succeed on their own, but must learn to form partnerships.

The war and its cleanup will send shock waves through the U.S., costing lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Stressed by the limping economy and stock market, charities already find it tough to make ends meet and deliver programs and services.

Now, they must dig even deeper to tap the time, talent and dollars of volunteers, supporters and partners.

But charities also must step up and lead.

With politicians, citizens and the media hooked on war, charities must speak up about what matters at home.

Despite our freedom and prosperity, America has not been able to rid itself of poverty, hunger, poor health, homelessness, racism, violence and illiteracy.

Charities must build civic partnerships to root out the causes of those social problems, and team up with one another and with government, business and educational institutions to find solutions.

And they should push state and federal lawmakers to approve measures that spur Americans to get involved in helping to make our communities better places to live and work.

America can be a beacon in the world, winning friends drawn to a society that pulls people together to fix what does not work, shares its wealth and know-how, and strives to build a global network that will not abide starvation, disease, ignorance, intolerance or aggression.

Yet if we cannot mend the deep rifts in our own society, we are not likely to coax other nations to join us in tackling global ills.

Charity is rooted in caring, community and collaboration.

By joining hands and pushing for change, charities can keep us on track at home while serving as a model for the work the U.S must do to heal the wounds of war.

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