A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Giving Back with Currents: Local Currency Exchange Highlights Charitable Giving

As we enter into the last month of the year, we Americans have a strong cultural tradition of turning our minds toward generosity and the giving of gifts. This is true whether you observe the Christmas holiday in a religious sense or not. What better time to think about how the Hudson Valley Current fits into that picture?

In previous articles, I’ve made the case for a local currency system like the Hudson Valley Current and why it’s a way we can work together to build a more just, resilient, and prosperous economy right here where we live. There is a definite community-building case for using it, and there’s also a strong business case for using it for our own benefit. Here, let’s consider how to use the Current to benefit others by practicing generosity.

Generally speaking, generosity is one of the most direct and straightforward ways to practice compassion. There are so many ways to practice generosity. Material things—or things that can be monetized such as services—are by no means the only way to do that. Nevertheless, it is an interesting property of money that it is not only useful for making a reciprocal exchange of goods and services.

Money is a slam-dunk way to practice giving. Every kid who ever got a ten-dollar bill from Grandma on his or her birthday knows that for sure! It is easy, perhaps, to get cynical if we fast forward to the world of big-money philanthropy. Perhaps the very rich are just doing their giving for a tax break, or to look good in the community, or to advance some questionable social agenda. I’m sure some of them are. But what’s interesting in the not-so-big-money world where I live is that giving is about individual choice and individual motivation. What is it that I want to contribute to; and what is it that you want to contribute to?

Money is a way to exercise economic power, and when we use the Current, we are actually empowering ourselves in a particular way. First of all, we are orienting ourselves to do local transactions. This emphatically includes charitable giving. There are a bunch of great local nonprofits that are members of the Current. If you find yourself with a positive balance in Currents you haven’t spent in a while, why not make a donation to one of them?

In that regard, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to practice generosity toward the Current itself. The Hudson Valley Current is a nonprofit organization and needs your support. Aside from operating the local currency system, we also have two other important and related projects. The first is the very newspaper you are reading at this moment, Country Wisdom News. We believe that operating a news source on a noprofit basis is a very important thing in today’s world. Though we take advertising, we are not beholden to advertisers, and in particular we are not beholden to the harmful mentality of materialism that is so destructive to human wellbeing and to the planet. When everything is about the bottom line, there is a terrible distortion of values, and that distortion has a lot to do with what’s going wrong with the world these days. Country Wisdom News aims to be an antidote to all that, and to avoid the harshness and divisiveness that is so prevalent in media.

Our other major project is the Satisfy Hunger campaign, which is an innovative program led by HV Current Executive Director Chris Hewitt. Satisfy Hunger aims to mobilize the community around food, bringing together local farmers and producers, benefit people in need, and raise money for local nonprofits.

Our first event was a pizza party in Rosendale that attracted over 150 people in September. Most recently, in a unique collaboration between the Hudson Valley Current and Duo Bistro in Kingston, we had the “Harvest Dinner 2016” on November 16, which was a huge success. From the generosity of the community, we provided 100 meals, free of charge, to our neighbors in need. Together, we not only fed people that night, but we also raised funds for Family of Woodstock. Due to ticket sales and purchasing of food from Current members for this event, more Currents flowed in the two weeks around the event than ever before.

It’s easy for me to see how the Current is a worthy object of your generosity, because I’ve been intimately involved with the project from the beginning. That being so, there are any number of other organizations just as worthy, and I encourage you to learn about those and exercise your individual choice and power, whether it is in Currents or Dollars.

I wish you Happy Holidays, and in doing so I am reflecting with gratitude on the meaning of this work. We at the Current are honored to be part of the culture of giving, the gift economy, that does so much good and has so much potential for our world.

David McCarthy is the author of Civil Endowment – The Transformation of Economic Power; co-founder and board member of The Hudson Valley Current: our local currency system; and organizer of the Hudson Valley New Economy Meetup.