Last year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked how 366 “major metropolitan areas” gave to charities. And in the top 50, the South had 38 cities, and Georgia had eight. Ranked at No. 8, behind Utah’s Provo, Logan, St. George and Ogden and Idaho Falls, Idaho, Salt Lake City and Pine Bluff, Ark., was Albany. Macon was at No. 13, Hinesville, home of Fort Stewart, at No.19, Columbus at No. 23, Augusta at No. 26, Warner Robins at No. 36; Valdosta at No. 41 and Dalton at No. 50.
To have four cities in the top 25, surpassed only by Utah with five in the top six, says something about our state and particularly our area. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Macon’s total contributions totaled almost $101 million (7.7 percent determined by median discretionary income). Warner Robins gave $58.5 million (6.9 percent). No crying for the larger cities in our state. Atlanta is ranked at No. 82, however, the city’s total contribution was $3.18 billion. Savannah at No. 71, contributed $163 million.
One indication of the area’s willingness to give is the United Way of Central Georgia’s annual campaign. Last year, it exceeded its $4.2 million goal even in the middle of a recession.
This year, the campaign that started in September, hopes to raise $4.25 million. For all our woes, the hospitality shown by Middle Georgians, extends far beyond salutations and homecooking, but reaches willingly into our wallets and purses.
But there are plenty of other reasons to note Southern hospitality and very soon people from far off places will wander the streets of Macon and other Middle Georgia cities. They come to visit, as they did this past weekend, to enjoy the Macon Film Festival that has grown into a Southern Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, minus the snow. As it grows in prominence, more benefits will hit the area. Already, “Trouble with the Curve,” starring Clint Eastwood, and “42” with Harrison Ford have been filmed here. More is to come.
And before we can say “spring,” the Cherry Blossom Festival will be upon us from March 15-24. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and the 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees can show off for visitors and townies alike. Southern hospitality will be in full bloom.