It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.
– Mother Teresa, Albanian Roman Catholic nun, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient for 1979
I missed giving a shout-out for Giving Tuesday on its actual day this year, which was December 3rd. Giving Tuesday, in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was the brainchild of Henry Timms, interim executive director of 92nd Street Y in New York City, who created and wanted to promote a day of “personal philanthropy” on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
“The driving spirit of this season is about generosity and giving thanks,” said Timms. “Giving Tuesday is a celebration of all forms of giving.” This year, more than 7,000 nonprofits around the country were slated to have participated in the growing movement through myriad activities, including volunteerism, grant matching, year-end donations, and support for specific projects.
I love the idea of Giving Tuesday! I love the idea of celebrating philanthropy during this time of consumerism. Since I missed highlighting Giving Tuesday on its appointed day, I’m advocating for picking any day this holiday season and giving back. Make a tradition out of it. For the last few years, our family has collected the various solicitations that come in the mail for the holiday season and on an appointed evening, we each pick one nonprofit organization to make a donation. We talk about the different types of organizations – environmental, animal, political, social justice, and so on – and we group the solicitations accordingly to make the process more manageable and less overwhelming. We talk about why we have chosen a particular organization. There are a lot of worthy causes out there, but here are our selections for this holiday season.
The Milo Foundation: “Please don’t buy, don’t breed – adopt!”
My first encounter with the Milo Foundation (P.O. Box 6625, Albany, CA 94706, 510.542.0897) was when the nonprofit domestic animal sanctuary used to come to the Fourth Street shopping area in Berkeley and adopt out cats and dogs. In 1999, David and I fell in love with “Iggy,” a little black puppy who had been abused and abandoned, along with her sister, in Berkeley. Iggy had kennel cough but survived, and she came home with us. We renamed her Bailey, and she was a part of our family until she passed away on our watch of old age 12 years later. In memory of Bailey and to show our love for our first family dog, Isabella, who loves dogs and considers herself “part dog,” chose the Milo Foundation to support.
The Milo Foundation is a “nonprofit, no-kill organization that provides an alternative for homeless dogs and cats throughout Northern California through education, adoption services, and a sanctuary for animals until permanent homes can be found.” Its mission is to “rescue adoptable at-risk animals, match them to homes best suited to provide lifetime care, rehabilitate those who need it, offer sanctuary to those who are not placed, and educate the public about responsible pet guardianship, including spay/neuter.” This one’s for you, Bailey, with soft floppy ears, whom we still miss dearly.
World Wildlife Fund: “A Better way to give…for our planet’s future”
The kids have always liked the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (1250 24th Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20037, 202.293,4800). It doesn’t hurt that the global conservation organization has a catalog of species that are classified [per the International Union for Conservation of Nature] as endangered, extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, and least concern that you can “adopt.” In return for a donation, you get a plush animal. We have “adopted” many endangered animals and the kids have plush animals such as the pygmy elephant and snowy owl as proof. Jacob could not escape the allure of yet another plush animal, though he tells me that first and foremost he wants to help endangered animals. This year he chose to help the “critically endangered” Sumatran rhino, which is the smallest of the living rhinos and the only Asian rhino with two horns.
I have to say that what I appreciated from this year’s catalog was President and CEO Carter S. Roberts’ introduction: “Dear Friend, For all the rigorous science we practice at WWF and all the innovative ideas we execute, one of the most effective conservation tools at our disposal is also one of the simplest: storytelling. Because perhaps nothing conveys the exquisite splendor and inherent value of the species and landscapes we cherish and work so hard to protect, with the support of friends like you quite as powerfully as a story.
“Stories can transport us to a place we’ve never seen, and inspire us to help save them. Stories can introduce us to a fisherman we’ll never meet, but whose way of life we’ll want to help sustain. And stories connect us. The world doesn’t seem so huge and overwhelming, and the problems we seek to tackle so insurmountable, when we can share our experiences and find common ground.” A beautiful message, beautifully written. Amen.
Bay Area Rescue Mission: “Changing lives for a brighter tomorrow”
David’s philanthropic philosophy, if you will, is to support local agencies. He is also supportive of agencies that address homelessness, poverty, and hunger. Bay Area Rescue Mission (2114 Macdonald 94801, 510.215.4555) was founded in 1965 in an old hotel in Richmond, CA, the next town over from El Cerrito, to provide emergency shelter and meals to homeless people. It has expanded its services through the years to include recovery program, transitional living, job-skills training, food pantry, mobile outreach, and youth outreach. We have donated to them in the past, long before we formalized our family tradition. This year, David wanted to continue to support this agency, which is an important community resource in Richmond.
Community Alliance for Learning (WriterCoach Connection)
When my son entered Portola Middle School as a seventh grader, I first learned about WriterCoach Connection, a program run by the Community Alliance for Learning (1191 Solano Avenue, #6098, Albany, CA 94706, 510.524.2319). The program was modeled after a successful writer-coach initiative on the East Coast and first implemented at Berkeley High School in February 2001. Its success led to the expansion of the program to Albany middle and high schools, Berkeley middle schools, Oakland high schools, and El Cerrito High School and Portola Middle School – all in the East Bay.
Trained community volunteers work with students on an individual basis for one hour per week. The testimonials are tremendous and inspirational. English teachers see vast improvement in their students who were previously getting low grades or not turning in their work. Students are getting the support they need and are motivated to become better writers, critical thinkers, and confident communicators. While Jacob didn’t require WCC resources, I’m a firm believer in supporting all aspects of the school community because that only strengthens the school overall.
My time is limited and to be honest I’m not a great tutor, as my kids will tell you, which is why homework duty falls on David’s shoulders. So I choose to support this incredibly important program with a modest donation. If you have the time and like to tutor, WCC would certainly appreciate your support as a community volunteer.
However you choose to give – be it through volunteering or donating or a simple act as offering a hug – give with your whole heart. To do so is an act of generosity of staggering proportions.