By Lisa Golden Schroeder
I’d love to be a full-time philanthropist. I had the chance once, as the president of a professional business group, to give away $15,000—all in one fell swoop. It’s still one of my most memorable days. Sadly, like most of us, I lack the personal resources to make that kind of charitable gesture on my own. But we’re a nation of volunteers, and there are so many ways to give back with gratitude for all we do have. As an antidote to the Black Friday shopping hoopla, and in memory of a past president’s appeal to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” I’m trying to remind myself to find some balance. Sorry if I sound so serious, but as my kids have gotten older in a very “have” rather than “have not” world, I find that modeling altruism is all the more important.
Being a caring and sharing presence can be as simple as volunteering at your kids’ school (which isn’t always simple), serving meals once a year at a shelter, or dropping off donations of outgrown clothing or a bag of groceries at a food shelf. Sometimes, when I hear stories of people in so many places being desperate for food or a place to live, the idea of one person making a real difference seems like a raindrop in an ocean of need. But what we each do does matter. And, like trying to get your children to eat their vegetables, I think that just having that desire to promote the welfare of others in small ways, every day, shows them the way. My older boys actually eat vegetables now, and they also have big hearts and an awareness of how fortunate they are.
My personal love for feeding people extends to my own small community contributions. I support a couple of local food shelves with donations and drips and drabs of money throughout the year. I volunteer at my kids’ school with the Mahtomedi Children’s Gardens and I sporadically make lunches—or donate leftover food from my jobs—for my church’s community resource center. Over the past few years, as the economy took a big swerve, the face of hunger and poverty has changed. Comfortable suburban neighborhoods have seen a huge spike in the number of families visiting food shelves—the community resource center in the heart of my town serves hundreds of my own neighbors who need a helping hand to find a new apartment with a pantry of food staples, a winter coat for a child, or a suit for a job interview. So I guess I’d like to leave you with a message from the CEO of Second Harvest Heartland, Rob Zeaske: “Food changes everything. It impacts well-being, learning, and provides hope.” Access to food during difficult times is the underpinning for stability. I hope that not only in this season of feasting but all year long, we each can actively be part of giving back, being sure our lucky kids grow up to be philanthropists.
Below are links to organizations and programs that accept donations and help folks help others: