Mayor Karen Goh Ringing in Give Big Kern 2019

Mayor Karen Goh rings the liberty bell located in downtown Bakersfield at Give Big Kern's 2019 event. 

If baseball is America’s pastime, giving to charity is Kern’s.

I’ve known this since I moved to Bakersfield in 2006 to work as a staff writer for The Bakersfield Californian.

You learn a lot about a community — and fast — as a journalist. I soon became amazed at the abundance of fundraisers, food drives, health fairs, back-to-school supply giveaways, low-cost spay/neuter clinics and other charity events that crowded headlines, community calendars and PSA slots offered by The Californian and other local media.

Kern’s great ongoing needs seem to always call for generous assistance efforts, considering that 1 out of 5 people in this resource-strapped corner of the San Joaquin Valley lives in poverty and only 1 out of 6 residents 25 or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is in ordinary circumstances — pre-COVID-19 — with high poverty and low educational attainment being just two among many other indicators of local needs.

It’s easy to think that needs alone are the driving force behind charitable efforts in our county. But I believe that in Kern, giving back goes beyond just helping to meet local needs.

Here, each act of charity — whether anonymous or publicly acknowledged — is relished as something worth celebrating. We even have our “local Oscars,” the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s Beautiful Bakersfield Awards, where hundreds get all dolled up, Hollywood-style, to recognize and reward the doers of good deeds that improve the life of all in the community.

Giving to charity is a greatly cherished value in Kern: We love it and celebrate it.

And in the unprecedented current crisis, we need to love it and celebrate it even more, and let it draw us closer together as a community.

But how can we in these times of mandated social distancing, when popular and much-needed spring fundraising events to support local causes were some of the first public gatherings to get canceled — even before people started sheltering in place?

The answer is ONLINE!

And Kern County’s official online day of giving, Give Big Kern, “One Day to Celebrate the Giving Spirit of Kern County!” provides the best vehicle for having a fun, safe, social-distancing-compliant fundraiser for the whole community to come together in support of local nonprofits.

Hosted by Kern Community Foundation, Give Big Kern has raised close to $1 million in unrestricted funds for local charities since its launch in 2016. This year, when it is most needed, Give Big Kern will still take place as originally scheduled, on the first Tuesday in May — May 5, Cinco de Mayo. However, as is customary, the donation portal, www.givebigkern.org, will open a month out starting today and remain open till May 6, one day after Give Big Kern Day.

This provides a whole month and a day for the community to get behind some 130 nonprofits fundraising for needs that have been amplified by the current crisis.

Now more than ever, local nonprofits need our help. Like scores of other businesses, charities have been hit hard by necessary public health directives to safeguard the greater good; many have lost significant revenues after having to suspend fee-for-service activities.

Consider that, according to the California Association of Nonprofits’ (www.calnonprofits.org) 2019 Causes Count Report on The Economic Power of California’s Nonprofit Sector:

n One out of every 14 jobs in California (7.2%) is at a nonprofit, which means that approximately 1.2 million Californians work for a nonprofit — close to half a million more than the 770,000 Californians working in construction.

n California’s nonprofit sector output represents 15% — or one-sixth — of California’s gross state product.

n Only 30% of California’s 92,567 active nonprofits have paid staff — an overwhelming 70% are all-volunteer-run.

n California’s volunteers contribute the equivalent of 331,000 full-time jobs ($16.6 billion in unpaid labor) each year to our state’s economy.

n More than 80% of Californians surveyed are confident that nonprofits act ethically and are better at operating efficiently, spending money wisely and acting on the public’s behalf than for-profit businesses or government.

It is in the best interest of all of us to help Kern’s nonprofits because we ourselves may need to turn to a nonprofit or two for assistance as this crisis unfolds.

Support local causes through Give Big Kern. Donate online at www.givebigkern.org beginning today all the way through May 6. Then use the hashtag #GIVEBIGKERN on social media to encourage others to give as well.

Let’s virtually come together online to hit a fundraising home run for local charities this Give Big Kern!

Louis Medina is the director of community impact for Kern Community Foundation. You may reach him at Louis@kernfoundation.org.

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