Tis the season for givinig

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By Tom McKee

FRANKFORT – There is never a bad time to count our blessings, but with Thanksgiving upon us, this time of year especially welcomes a look back on the positive things in our lives.
I know it has been tough for far too long for many families because of the economy, and yet I am heartened that our sense of charity has never wavered.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 63 million Americans volunteered at least once last year, and each spent 52 hours on average helping others.
Our country donated about $290 billion in 2010 as well, which was $10 billion more than in 2009.  That ended what had been a two-year decline, and I am positive that this year will see the growth continue.
Roughly a third of our giving goes to our churches, which is the single largest group.  Schools and charitable foundations are high on the list as well.
Kentuckians provide hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable gaming organizations through such events as church raffles, and tens of millions of dollars more go to such organizations as United Way, the WHAS Crusade for Children in Louisville and Habitat for Humanity, which has built more than 1,700 homes statewide during the last 18 years.
I am proud that state employees have been very active as well in donating.  Their charitable campaign raised $1.16 million in 2010.
There are other ways that state government is reaching out.  Our Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service began in 1994, and it coordinates community service projects, helps channel federal funding and recognizes those who go above and beyond in donating their time and talents.
Over the last few years, meanwhile, both the General Assembly and Governor Beshear have authorized new initiatives designed to increase donations to charity and improve our local communities.
A report done a little more than a year ago found that there is a lot of potential in this area.  It’s believed that Kentuckians will see $707 billion switch hands to younger generations during the next 50 years, as part of about $53 trillion across the United States.  The report said setting aside just five percent of this for such things as education and economic development could make a world of difference.
For now, our thoughts are focused on the fellowship and food for which the holiday is known.  Though Thanksgiving traces its roots to the Pilgrims in the Northeast, it was a Kentuckian – President Lincoln – who proclaimed that we should celebrate it on the last Thursday in November.
If you are traveling, I encourage you to take the extra time to get there safely.  The Transportation Cabinet says that there were more than 1,300 traffic accidents over the holiday last year.
Meanwhile, if you are not up for cooking at home, our 17 state resort parks will be open on Thursday.   They will serve from noon to 8 p.m., with adults costing $17.95 and children six to 12 costing $7.95, plus tax.  Children five and younger eat for free, and beverages are included.
With Thanksgiving here, that means the start of the 2012 Regular Session is not far behind.  As usual, there is no shortage of issues to consider when my colleagues and I return to the Capitol in early January, from the budget to the redistricting of House, Senate and congressional seats to reflect population changes since the last Census.
Your input is always important, but it becomes critical during legislative sessions.  If you would like to reach me, you can address your letter to Room 332B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181.  For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.  Happy Thanksgiving.