I met with a board the other day that told me something astonishing. They had set up a voluntary "rainy day" fund for neighbors to throw in a dollar here or there. Whenever a resident experienced unexpected trouble (job loss, health issue, divorce, etc.) he or she could apply to the committee in charge of the fund for some assistance.
The board informed me that a single mom had recently lost her job and the fund had been able to help with a portion of her HOA assessments. In past instances, fund dollars had paid for a week's worth of meals for the family of a resident who was hospitalized and for much-needed roof repairs for an unemployed man. If this sounds hard to believe, I'm right there with you! Who would possibly contribute to such a fund voluntarily when we are all experiencing financial difficulties these days? Who would determine the worthiness of an individual seeking help and how much to give?
This board advised that rather than creating dissension, the existence of the rainy day fund had actually brought their community much closer together. Rather than feeling resentful, many residents looked forward to reading in their newsletter about how the fund was being used to help neighbors in need. After all, the fund is voluntary; no common expenses are used for purposes to which the resident Scrooge might object.
Any charitable giving is to be commended, whether you are sending it to Iowa or Istanbul. That being said, giving back to your own community and seeing in person what can be done to help someone you may know through a rough spot is very special indeed!