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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

Lending Hands, Joining Hands

The desire to lend a hand to those less fortunate is one of the most persistent motivations leading Americans to join clubs and form associations. From the late eighteenth century onward, a variety of benevolent associations, many faith-based, arose to meet such needs as aiding the poor, protecting children, founding orphanages, and providing mutual assistance within diverse communities. The history of these associations reveals who Americans in different communities believed to be worthy of charity and who they believed was not. It also discloses the determination of marginalized communities to enable their own and others to combat poverty, privation, or discrimination. Over time, Americans have worked together to create a vast range of organizations whose efforts to ease the burden of those in need have become a major part of civil society in the country.