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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Americans ready to help

WHEN times are tough, Americans tend to become the most generous people in the world. Last year when the price of a gallon of gasoline and other energy costs soared and economic uncertainty swirled, Americans donated more than $260 billion for victims of natural disasters and the less fortunate.

Others may think of the U.S. as selfish, and sometimes it may be true, but the claim is blown away every time there is a need in a faraway place. Americans come through to help, no matter how much they have to tighten their own belts. Even as many families were forced to cut back, generosity to victims of natural disasters reached its highest level in years, not surprising given all the natural calamities.

These findings by the Giving USA Foundation only confirm that Americans are a big-hearted people. The tsunami in Asia at the end of 2004, the earthquake in Pakistan last October, and the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast last August produced a 6.1 percent rise in giving.

Nobody should be surprised. Whenever disasters occur, it seems Americans never hesitate to open their purses and empty their pockets.

The experts thought there would be no increase in philanthropy last year. In fact, excluding disaster relief, giving from individuals and corporations would also have been up. When adjusted for inflation, however, charitable giving was down only slightly.

Nobody needs a natural disaster to find people in need. We could do more to help here at home every day.

But when a genuine calamity strikes, our citizens respond. It s an endearing part of the American character.

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