There was unhappy news in Trumbull County this week, and that news should give everyone cause to wonder how much more unhappy news might await.
We're talking specifically about the announced closing of the Gillmer House in Warren, home of the Trumbull Art Guild, but we're worrying on a broader plane about the health of charitable entities in general at this time of economic contraction.
The Trumbull Art Guild has been in existence since 1957 and has operated a gallery in the Gillmer House on Warren's Millionaires' Row since 1969. The historic house was not only a place to display the work of undiscovered artists, but home to the guild's various art classes for children and adults.
It was one of those places that helps give a community its distinct character. But no more.
The last classes were held at the Gillmer House this summer, the guild is now without a director and the house is being put on the market.
The loss of the Gillmer House and the scaling back of TAG activities is a sign of hard times for cultural and charitable endeavors of various kinds.
Others hurting too
There are literally hundreds of charitable foundations in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys that minister to the artistic, spiritual, physical health and mental health needs of the community. And almost every one of them is being caught between the pinchers of reduced state and federal support and fewer private charitable contributions.
The Christian Science Monitor reported a few months ago that private charitable giving fell by 2.3 percent in the United States in 2001. And most charities were hit harder than that because the overall figure included the largest single outpouring of charity in the nation's history -- $1.9 billion for Sept. 11 relief.
While those are national figures, it is safe to assume that the smaller local charities are being hurt at least as badly.
This is a problem for which we can offer no solution. In times such as these people are making difficult decisions about what to do with their money.
But it must be noted that the loss of art galleries, theater groups, dance companies and the like take a toll on a community. Likewise, when agencies that offer help to the ill or homeless or troubled have to scale back, people suffer.
Some individual entities may seem like luxuries to a community, but each has something to offer and together they are vital to the community's health. The loss of any one of these assets -- such as the gallery at the Gillmer House -- is a loss to be mourned.