Garden City’s annual Halloween party at the zoo — canceled.

A gala celebration at Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere — canceled.

Topeka’s Fiesta Mexicana — also canceled.

Week after week, from the northeast tip of Kansas to its southwest toe, museums, zoos, churches, and community groups have had to nix their plans to party because of COVID-19.

Fun is not the only casualty.

While most of us view these events as opportunities for entertainment, food and conversation, they also are vital fundraisers.

The dinners, auctions, bazaars, fiestas, festivals, pies, bierocks and burritos support hundreds of causes in towns and cities across our state.

According to a variety of reports, a sizeable number of nonprofits across the country likely will have to close completely. Many more will be financially crippled for years because of the pandemic.

Already, many organizations have cut staff and other expenses, even as they try to mitigate their losses by sponsoring digital fundraisers and making special appeals for donations.

But it’s going to be a rough, long road for many of the groups that make our communities special.

The museums that preserve and share our Kansas history. The youth organizations that teach skills and provide safe recreation for our children. For much of Kansas, these kinds of nonprofit groups help make our hometowns and our state distinctive and appealing.

Their fate is more important than what we personally are going to do about Halloween, or whether the pandemic will affect our Thanksgiving plans, or even worrying about how COVID-19 might mess with our family traditions at Christmas.

Rather than grouse about how the pandemic might ruin our holidays, perhaps we could consider how we can modify or adjust our plans to help local nonprofits.

We’re likely going to have to make alterations because of COVID-19 anyway. Why not decide to put a somewhat positive spin on the adjustments by making support of nonprofits part of the deal?

Here are five ideas about how you might help:

1. Call your nonprofit or organization of choice and see how you can volunteer. Because so many volunteers are older, many organizations saw their ranks decline dramatically starting in the spring. Some of those volunteers have come back, but there’s still a need, especially as some groups try to make up for cuts in staffing.

2. Consider making donations to groups instead of buying gifts for relatives and friends. Just remember that donations should be to groups the recipients find worthy — not those the giver favors.

3. Support nonprofits financially through online events. Many groups, including theater groups and museums, are holding virtual events. Others are conducting online auctions and offering items for sale online. While not as fun as in-person events, they do allow you to support groups that support your community.

4. Don’t be embarrassed by your budget. Groups appreciate every donation and many kinds of support. Often, they can use your donation to show government grant programs and foundations that they enjoy widespread community support, thereby leveraging additional funds.

5. Don’t feel any decision you make this year creates an obligation. Sure, many of the groups will pester you for more donations down the road. That’s why they make trash cans.

Mostly, look for reasons why you should help and ways you can. Your community will be the better for it.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.

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