It was becoming obvious in the 1960s that the city of Athens needed a better hospital than Sheltering Arms, only two houses in size.

So, a fundraising program began. The goal was $1 million.

Charles O’Bleness, retired president of the First National Bank of Athens, was approached for a donation. When told the sum that was needed he said “OK.” So the goal was raised to $2 million. He did not live to see the hospital named for him in 1967. A similar contribution to county health facilities was made earlier when Dr. Webb anonymously gave the land for Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital in Nelsonville.

This is what many rich people used to do with their excess wealth. I wonder if that is as much the case today. We hear about big donations but they do not add up to the possibilities or the need. The wealthy one percent of our country could share much more than they do. Every extravagant mansion, private jet, and luxury spa uses money that could improve the lives of all residents of our country.

It has been reported recently that charitable giving is declining in the U.S. This might be the result of changes in income tax law which requires much higher levels of itemized deductions above the standard allowed. It was a benefit to society when a donation had the added value of a tax deduction.

More of us need to follow Charlie O’Bleness in giving without other incentive. We should not need anything named after us unless it inspires others to donate also. The ideal of charity is anonymous gifting. Rewarded or not, every person should share.

America can be proud of its history of private charitable support for hospitals, schools, art museums and other public institutions. This enhances everyone’s life and health and is of benefit to donors, too. We need to give help to others for our own wellbeing. This supplements the government’s responsibility to care for people, including but not limited to the distressed and ill.

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