This period each year provides an opportunity for us at East Texas Communities Foundation to reflect on the past year of generosity. It is an honor for our organization to help facilitate the charitable giving of so many people around East Texas. It is also humbling to get a bird’s eye view of the needs in our community that are on the hearts and minds of our donors. For those of you who may not know, East Texas Communities Foundation is a public foundation that administers over 400 unique charitable funds for generous East Texans. Many of the donors we serve are living in our communities, observing and engaging with local charities; while others have passed on and left ETCF with the responsibility to continue their charitable legacy. As a result of our work serving so many different families in different communities around East Texas, we are afforded a unique perspective on the state of charitable giving in our region. One of the consistent observations that can be made by looking at our annual grants, is the great struggle many people in our communities face as they strive to escape poverty.   

Over sixty percent of the $17 million in grants that were distributed from ETCF in 2021 were made to institutions that play a vital role in helping people meet their basic needs of food, shelter, healthcare, and education. You may be thinking that only food, shelter, and healthcare are necessary for survival, and that is true at the most basic level, but in order for a person to become self-sustaining in our society, education is also critical.

In 2013, Ron Haskins and Isabell Sawhill conducted research at the Brookings Institute which rediscovered and confirmed timeless truths about success and poverty in America. Their research suggests that poverty can be avoided by 95% of individuals in our country if they follow three simple rules: finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have a family. In fact, following those simple rules yields a 70% success rate for individuals to reach the middle class. By contrast, people who stumble on any of those steps face a difficult struggle to get back on a path to escape poverty.     

Many charities in our community are willing to come alongside people who have experienced failure on any one of those basic steps to success. For those who failed to finish high school, the Literacy Council of Tyler is there to help them achieve their GED and regain their footing on their path to a solid education. You will find no greater group of educators and cheerleaders to invest in the lives of people who may otherwise have given up on their dreams of completing high school. Many older learners also find that success with a GED leads to a desire and commitment to obtain a college degree or advanced certification.

For women who have stumbled on the step of securing a full-time job, Christian Women’s Job Corp and other job training and certification programs strive to provide the skills necessary to land a good full-time job. CWJC mentors provide not only specific job skills but also guidance and a boost of confidence for women to advance their careers. Holding a job can also be difficult for individuals in abusive relationships or dealing with addictions. Organizations such as East Texas Crisis Center and HiWay 80 Rescue Mission offer temporary shelter and support to help such individuals with a fresh start.

The most challenging step to stumble on along the path to avoid poverty is out-of-wedlock or teen pregnancy. Tyler is fortunately home to great charities such as Living Alternatives for teen mothers and Shine for single moms. Childcare is a heavy burden to bear for teens and single moms, and these important charities are committed to walking the long road with these women by providing long-term shelter and vital support services. Individuals can stumble on the path to prosperity for many reasons. Without the support of important local charities, some may never find the path out of poverty. Supporting one of these important charities may be your next best opportunity to Give Well.