Christmas/Holidays (176281)
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To the Editor,

This season is known as the season of giving. At the New York City Mission Society, we started this period by holding our annual Thanksgiving Harvest Community Dinner, serving more than 200 meals to community members then distributing turkeys to people and families in need. 

Both events motivated volunteers, donors, students and businesses to pitch in and give back, and community members to visit our flagship center in Harlem to ask for help and a hot meal. During those moments, it was clear that we were making a difference.

Yet, any sense of achievement might seem fleeting amid a new a poll finding that half of city residents struggle financially and that the communities we serve confront a dismal employment landscape and imbalanced access to educational opportunities. Far too many children and young adults in communities ravaged by poverty are struggling this time of year. Things that many of us take for granted—e.g., hot meals, a roof over our heads—seem unimagined and unattainable goals. 

In the Bronx, where the unemployment rate is nearly 18 percent, opportunities for economic security are scarce. In Central Harlem, for example, 1 out of every 10 students drops out of high school each year, and over 40 percent fail to graduate within four years.

Instead of witnessing lives full of milestones and accomplishments, children in these communities grow up surrounded by gang activity, teen parenthood, drugs, dead-ends and despair.

At the New York City Mission Society, we depend on the compassion and commitment of supporters to help us change the desolate landscape of poverty into a fruitful one of hope and opportunity. Each year, we serve more than 18,000 New Yorkers with vital programs, services and community events. Yet, we recognize that many others across this city are still in need of help. 

As you reflect on your year’s accomplishments this holiday season, please remember to invest in opportunity. You have a chance this giving season to find and support a cause.

I urge all New Yorkers to consider the atmosphere of economic despair faced by so many individuals and families. You can honor the spirit of the season by helping others break the cycle of poverty and build a lifetime of achievement.

Elsie McCabe Thompson is president of the New York City Mission Society.