On a recent Thursday, I started my day at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank with an early-morning meeting of the Children’s Museum of Los Angeles Commission for Greater Los Angeles. The meeting began with a lively performance of the Children’s Museum Go Readers Theatre Project. Their musical theatre celebration of the delightful discoveries offered by children’s books enchanted this audience of 40 or 50 adults and reminded me of the rich resources that are available through the myriad non-profit agencies that serve the diverse communities of the Greater Los Angeles area. The Children’s Museum of Los Angeles is just one of the many, many non-profit organizations that contribute so much to the lives of the citizens of this area. With the horrors of Sept. 11 and their aftermath still fresh in our minds, this nation has reacted with great compassion to the terrible loss a loss that we all share. It is important to our own healing, as well as theirs, that we respond to the needs of the survivors of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and of the people of Afghanistan who are innocent victims of this war. But if, by that response, we neglect the needs of our neighbors, we do a disservice to ourselves as well as to all of those we are trying to help. Perhaps it is time to refocus our energies and our resources closer to home to the nonprofit agencies throughout this area that do so much to build strong communities by helping at-risk youth, the mentally or physically disabled, the hungry, the sick, the aged, the battered. Perhaps it is time to remember that through our children, the diverse community in which we live can be united. Perhaps it is time to remember that through the arts and culture our souls are nourished and our appreciation of all cultures is enhanced. We have all been shattered by the events of Sept. 11 and the terrible ripple effect they have created. Whether we are grieving over the loss of friends or family in the attacks, frightened for our personal safety, worried about the struggling economy or shaken by the uncertain future all of our lives have changed in some way. As a nation, we have rallied behind those most directly affected by these events. Now, as a community, we must shift our focus to the institutions that help bind our own city’s wounds. If we fail to support the non-profit institutions and agencies that serve us locally, we will be denying people services they depended on prior to Sept. 11 and will continue to need long after this era has passed. We will be depriving our children of educational enrichment that is essential if they are to grow into the kind of leaders our world so desperately needs. And we will be in danger of losing so much of the ground that has been gained in the area of human services in recent years. The people of the greater Los Angeles area have demonstrated remarkable resiliency throughout this city’s history. In the recent past, we were not only able to rebound from a series of catastrophes, but grew stronger in the process. We can do that again. We are in this together, and together we can and will recover from recent events and face the future stronger and better than ever even if the future means that we ourselves become victims of a future attack. This will not be possible if we neglect the organizations that are there to give us strength in difficult times and enrich our daily lives. Our local non-profit agencies are a vital thread in the fabric of our lives. It is time to focus our resources on supporting them. Cathy Maguire is the chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).
Guest Column—During Crisis, Don’t Neglect Local Non-Profit Groups