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Looking ahead

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With Election Day behind us, we take some time to not only look back but also to look ahead. The numbers themselves are staggering: $4.2 billion were reportedly raised for the 2012 presidential election with some estimates suggesting that, when all is said and done, actual spending will be closer to $6 billion. Reports point to extraordinary individual campaign contributions: Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife are reported to have donated some $53.69 million to the efforts to unseat President Obama and other Democrats, with upwards of $290 million reported to have been contributed to both campaigns by 149 donors, each donor contributing $500,000 or more.

In Massachusetts alone, $70 million dollars was spent in the race for the U.S. Senate, the most expensive senatorial campaign ever.

And while there was some attention paid to the 47 percent of Americans living in poverty today, campaign rhetoric offered little in the way of new solutions to the challenges ahead. We trust that our government will continue in its efforts to work alongside the non-profit sector in closing the gaping holes in our social safety net. We hope and pray that in the coming days and weeks, the two parties will find ways to work together to help resolve the most pressing and urgent of our nation's challenges.

At Catholic Charities, each and every day, we meet the mothers and fathers who represent the 47 percent living in poverty in our communities -- those parents struggling to feed their families, to pay their rent, to provide good educations for their children. We meet our neighbors, who as the winter cold approaches, are faced with the difficult decision to "heat or eat."

And with help from many, we respond.

This is especially true at Thanksgiving, when we are able to provide food for holiday dinners to nearly 5,000 families living across the archdiocese. Of course, we do this with a lot of help from our friends. United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the Greater Boston Food Bank, along with volunteers from parishes, companies and schools across the region all join together with us as we pack bags of food and turkeys for distribution. Our own Cardinal Seán is among the hundreds who volunteer their time in this huge effort.

Sadly, once Thanksgiving is over, the need will still remain as families prepare for the Christmas holiday, followed by the harshest days of winter.

Already we are receiving requests from families for Christmas holiday help, most asking, not for expensive toys or electronics, but rather for warm coats and boots -- items too expensive for increasingly tight family budgets. And we know that with prices for everyday necessities continuing to rise, we will be asked to fill the gap for many more of those in our communities struggling to meet their basic needs.

I recently had the good fortune to hear Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone Project, speak about his work providing high quality educational and social services for families in Harlem. He reminds us all that it is absolutely essential that we work together, especially during tough times.

Looking ahead, it seems to be the only way there is to make a real difference.

For more information on ways to work together with Catholic Charities go to www.ccab.org.

Debbie Rambo, LICSW is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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