Over the past couple of weeks, the idea of community has taken on new gravitas. With broadcasts that provide us with immediacy and social media connectivity that link us intimately, we have watched the world take new shape. The fast-pace of change, and our ability to witness change as it happens, has (in my opinion) helped define and refine our collective humanitarian role and purpose.

Inevitable natural forces have taken our collective breath away. We were paralyzed as earthquakes rocked New Zealand and Japan, then we cried as we watched the fierce wall of water sweep across the already ravaged island nation. Those left in the wake of disasters find themselves deprived of basic amenities: clean water, power, and … yes … food.

The American Red Cross has made it amazingly simple to donate aid to the people – our global neighbors – who need assistance. You can even choose where you’d like your donation to be applied. The American Red Cross serves not just victims of natural disaster, they comfort and care for military families; people in war torn regions, like Northern Africa and the Middle East; and millions of others who find themselves in crisis.

While global events rivet and compel us to open our hearts and wallets to people far away, I ask that we remember our fellow St. Louisans who need help and support every day. Families struggle to buy groceries and are turning to food pantries for assistance. The elderly and infirm frequently face having to decide which of their basic needs will be met day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month.

My challenge to myself, and everyone, is this: If you can donate $10 to the American Red Cross, won’t you please consider donating $10 or volunteering your time to a local food pantry or meal provider? You’ll be helping your immediate neighbors, your co-workers, and your community. It is amazing what just a little bit can do for so many.

Giving in our own community binds us closer and can give each of us a renewed sense of purpose. In the long run, we’ll fuel our collective success and strength. We’ll groom and encourage the next generation of humanitarians.

Here is a short list of (and links to) local organizations that can use our help:

Food Outreach

Operation Food Search

St. Louis Area Food Bank

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Food Pantry

Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry

American Red Cross, St. Louis Chapter