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Raising Philanthropic Children

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Lessons learned from graduation

“you build a legacy not by one thing but by everything, your legacy is every life you touch.”

Maya Angelou

As many of you know, there many things in this world that make me happy, giddy and joyful. Last week at my alma matter more than a few of them came together. Talking, giving speeches, college graduations, USC Annenberg and Oprah….like a perfect storm they became one. While I was supposed to attend the graduation for one of our volunteers, I sadly couldn’t get there in time.

However, through the power of media I was able to watch Oprah’s speech. She has such wonderful lessons that I wanted to give you some of the highlights here. Oprah knew the first rule that they teach you at Annenberg and that is to know your audience. She certainly knew hers, future journalist, broadcasters and the messengers of the future. Oprah asked those messengers to give voice to the people who need a voice. She said,”Use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in the world.”  She asked the students to, “Be the truth” and asked,”what are you willing to stand for?”

Oprah quoted her friend Maya Angelou’s words saying, “You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything. Your legacy is every life you touch.”  Words that resonate.  As she wrapped up her speech with practical advise about making your bed, being kind, and investing in a good mattress, she pivoted and said,” Join forces in service of something greater than ourselves. Pick a problem, any problem and do something about it.”

These are not just words for USC Annenberg alumns or words for Oprah fans but rather words for all of us to process, think about and decide how we are going to act.

charity matters.

 

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Reflections on Motherhood

“Having kids…the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings-is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

Maria Shriver

Lately, I have been thinking about being a mother. Motherhood isn’t something you typically think about, it is a verb, an action and rarely a mere thought. The reflection began last week, when I saw a young mother in the grocery store trying to contain her toddler. I smiled and told her to enjoy this moment because it goes by so fast. She looked at me as if I was insane and her expression said that this moment was already way too long and she hoped it would go by quicker.  I clearly remember being that young mother with three toddler boys in the grocery store.  Older women,(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) would share these  same words of wisdom with me and my reaction at the time was probably pretty similar. Last week,  I realized with horror, that I was now that older woman.

I am really not sure where that time went or how it slipped by so quickly, especially when those days felt like eternity.  The days when the boys drank food coloring and stained their faces, fingers and everything else in sight. The day we were painting the nursery for their new baby brother’s arrival when they knocked over a can of paint, ran through the spilled paint and all over the house leaving baby blue foot prints on the carpets, wood floors and most surfaces.  The upstairs sink they turned on without my knowledge that ran for hours, flooding the upstairs and my husbands treasured old convertible in the garage below. The memories of dirt, destruction and chaos are vast and yet, each crazy moment is now a treasured gift.

The goal in those days was mere survival. If you were showered and nothing was hugely destroyed, the day was a victory. Little by little those toddlers, ran faster and farther. They started using bikes, skate boards  and pushed every boundary mental and physical that they possibly could.  Those beautiful little faces could destroy you and wear you down, motherhood  was an endurance sport where only the strong survive.

Like a triathlon, you begin the race of motherhood full of energy and excitement for the journey ahead.  The swim is the first part of the course, as you dive in you realize the water is colder than you thought but you are just beginning, so  you visualize your finish line. You focus on that moment on the podium and your shiny metal at the end of the race with these amazing humans you have molded, supported, guided and loved. Quickly, very quickly into the race you realize you are sinking…fast and that the race is going to be longer and harder than expected.

Not to worry, if you can survive the swim, then you are ready for the ride. Once on the bike, those twists and turns on the road of motherhood where school, hurt feelings, sporting activities, homework and planning your daily course is harder than planning a military strategic operation. The ride seems as if it has to be better than the swim and yet the challenges are never ending. They just keep coming.

Still, you hold onto your vision, you dream of the finish line. A polite, kind, educated human, with a diploma and perhaps a job. You finish your ride and begin the run. You are now slower, much slower and yet you are determined to finish the race. You will get that prize and so you push through those last hurdles, roadblocks and obstacles. They are big ones, high school, getting into college and everything teenager that will test your mental strength like never before. You are a survivor. You are strong, you are a mother and you are so close to finishing. Then you see it, the finish line and the tears begin because you now realize you no longer want the race to end.

You see those beautiful children, kind, polite, and good and realize that it was the race, the journey and the challenges that were the joy. Each obstacle overcome is a victory and each failure a lesson in love, patience and endurance. You survived the frigid deep waters of babies and toddlers, the twist and turns along the ride to adolescence and the run through the teenage years and college. The tears stream down your face as you cross the line exuberant, proud, strong and tired. Your vision is real, your prize is waiting with open arms….those beautiful, kind, polite and amazing humans are there just as you imagined and dreamed. You are a mother and your race is almost over and now you just wish you could run part of it again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

charity matters.

 

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The Barron Prize for Young Heroes

 

A few weeks ago, a young lady that has helped start and run a local nonprofit asked me to write her a recommendation for The Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which I happily did. This high school girl is extraordinary and I was thrilled to help.  More than that I was  excited to learn about this incredible award and nonprofit that inspires and encourages students between the ages of 8 and 18 to use heroic qualities like courage, compassion and perseverance to make a positive and significant impact on the world.

The prize was started by New York Times best selling Children’s author, T.A. Barron seventeen years ago and named after the author’s mother. His hope was to inspire children that could make a significant difference in the world. The founder’s fear was that  perhaps, they wouldn’t be able to find these children. However,it was just the opposite, hundreds and hundreds of applications would begin to come in.

Seventeen years later, the Barron Prize for Young Heroes has honored over 417 young heroes who have  all done remarkable things. One prize winner is Alexa, who created a nonprofit called Bags of Books, which she started at age 10. Her organization distributes gently used and new children’s books in free pop-up stores in underserved communities. She has donated more than 120,000 books and inspired hundreds of volunteers to distribute books in homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and after school programs.

One  young prize winner founded NY is a great place to Bee! to educate the public about bees about the importance of healthy bee populations. She built a team of volunteers and they have educated over 14,000 students about ways to protect bees through her advocacy.

Another inspiring change maker,  Jahkil, founded Project I Am to help the homeless in Chicago. In one year Jahkil and his team distributed more than 3,000 Blessing Bags filled with toiletry items, towels, socks and snacks through his drop off sites and bag stuffing parties all at the age of nine!

While I could go on with hundreds more of these incredible young nonprofit founders and budding philanthropist, these 417 Barron Prize for Young Heroes winners have combined raised over 19 million dollars for their causes in the past seventeen years. The real winners of this prestigious award are the incredible communities served by these extraordinary young leaders and their enormous compassion to serve. Each of them give us hope for a brighter future of kindness, caring and service.

 

charity matters.

 

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A love letter

 

All have you have been on this crazy journey called life with me. Many days the journey involves nonprofits, the incredible people I am privileged to meet, to serve and whose stories I tell. Other days the journey has been personal, I have shared my joy, my sorrow, loss, love and everything in between here on this platform, so it seems only fitting that this large milestone is shared with you as well. Our oldest son is graduating from college this weekend and I am just trying to process it all.

Almost seven years ago when I started Charity Matters, our sons were 16, 14 and 10 and I did everything not to mention them, embarrass them or shine any light in their direction from the blog. Today, however, our oldest has no choice because this love letter is for him.

My dear H-,

Twenty-three years ago you entered this world and made us parents. You taught us what love really means and how to live without sleep. Every new parent writes a secret script for their child. They hold their newborn and envision their first step, teaching to ride them a bike, baseball games, proms, high school graduations, college, first love, first heart breaks and everything in between. We don’t tell anyone our secret parental script but we all have it, the way we think you are supposed to be and who we dream of you becoming.

You taught us to throw away the script early on. You refused to be defined by our expectations or anyone else’s. You arrived on this planet knowing who you were and spent the last twenty-three years informing us. You didn’t want to play with firetrucks but rather vacuums and irons. You didn’t want to play baseball but study how old cars can run on recycled kitchen grease as fuel. You did play sports but only on your terms and more than anything you loved cars, photography, beautiful things, and spending over a thousand hours volunteering to serve the neediest children in South Central Los Angeles. You showed us just how huge your heart is and that you could write a way better script than we ever could.

So this weekend as you graduate from college, you need to know that we have never been more proud to be your parents. You are the most remarkable, honest, real, loving human being and more than that, the world is a better place because you are in it. I know you will continue to surprise us with the script you write and I can hardly wait to read the next chapter. Just know that our hearts are overflowing with love and pride, not because of what you have accomplished in your short life but because of who you are.

Now go into the world and do well but more importantly, do good. We love you!

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

National Volunteer Week

“A volunteer is a person who can see what others cannot see; who can feel what most do not feel. Often, such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers, but as citizens – citizens in the fullest sense; partners in civilization.”
President George H.W. Bush
Founder, Points of Light

Its back and it here! No, not taxes, something much better…National Volunteer Week! Who knew that this week is National Volunteer week? In case you missed the memo from the White House, or your local news didn’t deem it important enough to cover, consider yourself informed…or at least you will be, by the end of this.

National Volunteer Week, a program of Points of Light  was established in 1974 and has grown each year, with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled for the week. The week is all about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about showing that by working together, we can do anything. National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging people to be at the center of social change – discovering and  demonstrating their power to make a difference.

If you don’t know where to start, take a peak at one of my favorite sites, Volunteer Match.org. You just type in your zip code, what you love to do and it will match with an organization that can use your help, in your community. You can also go to Project giving Kids if you are looking for opportunities for you and your children to volunteer together. In addition, this Sunday, is Earth Day so maybe you can do an environmental volunteer project next weekend, the opportunities are endless.

Think of National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve. Each year twenty-five percent of Americans volunteer, which is 62.8 million people! They average about 32 hours per per person, per year according to the Corporation for National Community Service, which comes to 7.9 billion hours of service or $184 billion dollars. 

I hope this week finds you inspired to be an active part in a cause you care about, in your community, helping a neighbor or meeting new friends volunteering. It is people like you, the power of volunteers who build stronger communities and a better world for us all.

Happy Volunteering!

 

charity Matters.

 

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Inspiring service…

“I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving; to help people,to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.”

Denise Morrison

I must confess these past few weeks have been crazy busy at work and in life, overwhelming really. In addition to all of that Charity Matters email subscribers have not been receiving their emails, which has really been frustrating for everyone….so thank you for your patience! I’m not sure if its Mercury retrograde or what the source is but we are working on it and it pretty much sums up my March Madness.

At work, we are just wrapped up training and teaching thousands of young students leadership and Saturday we worked with our high school leaders. One of the key messages we tell our students is that you can not lead unless you serve. Honestly, one of my favorite things about my job…inspiring others to give.

When I saw this quote above, it spoke to me about service and what it means to me. I was recently interviewed for a recognition of service and just saw the video. While I am not a big fan of watching myself, and really who is? However, I thought I would share because a few of you have asked and it gives a bit of context to the message of how important it is to serve.

Service is what we are all here to do, to serve one another. When I am overwhelmed, thinking about all of lives  many tasks, the only way out of that feeling  is when I think about others, rather than myself. It is so easy to get wrapped up in all we have to do  but the moment we think about caring for or helping another, a shift occurs.

As we get ready to wrap up this wild month and dive into Spring, I am committing to a renewal of service, purpose and focusing on what matters.

charity matters.

 

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Teaching service and leadership

As many of you know I run a youth leadership nonprofit organization as my daytime job. Teaching over 3,000 students each year how to be leaders. This time of year at work we are doing leadership days, so think about a school field trip where a few hundred middle school students are going to a local high school to be taught leadership by high school students.

All year the college alumni of our program teach the high school students leadership skills and then like a waterfall, the high school students turn and teach the middle school students, which is how we run an organization that serves 3,000 students with only two employees. More than any of that, what constantly inspires me is seeing the power of peers. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 and looking up to those a few years older or 12 and looking up to a 15 year old, that peer relationship is so powerful and never really goes away.

We spend so much time in our schools talking about bullying and negative things that are happening with our youth and so little talking about the good, which is why I needed to  share this. I have been working with hundreds of these inspiring teenagers as they teach these middle school students. I watch as they take, shy, sometimes awkward, sometimes overly confident middle schoolers and they validate them, accept them, include them and as a result empower them. These small gestures of kindness are transformative.

I watch these young adults transform others lives through their service and transform their own by recognizing their own power and the power of kindness. I continue to be in awe of watching these students transform themselves, their schools and communities through their service and leadership.

This isn’t a post about school violence, politics or bullying but rather a place to point out that these teenagers can fix almost anything. If our youth continue to come together to reach out to an alienated or lonely child, include someone who feels isolated, help another who is feeling left out…. those simple gestures can have the most powerful results. We don’t need marches on Washington, we simply need kindness, compassion, inclusion and acceptance that is how we are going to take back our schools, society and safety.

Charity Matters.

 

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The Blessing Box

 

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and discussing the concept of Charity Matters. More specifically the fact that kindness and goodness can spread quickly once people can see it in action. The gentleman I was talking too asked me if I had heard of The Blessing Box. I said that I had not, but it sounded interesting. His reply was that The Blessing Boxes that are now popping up all over his neighborhood in LA are a perfect example of the concept that goodness is contagious.

Being curious I tried to track down the original roots of The Blessing Box, which are typically home made boxes where people donate food for those in need. Almost like a miniature food pantry filled with everything from laundry soap to canned goods. In turn, those in need do not experience the shame of asking for food or help. The heart of the Blessing Box is that small random acts of kindness and generosity are contagious.

In Watertown, New York, Ramon Espinoza, a 46 year old Army Veteran decided to build a Blessing Box in front of his home and proved that giving is contagious. Watertown now has over 20 Blessing Boxes and even Home Depot has jumped in to help with the project.

Alex Martinez, pictured above, grew up homeless the first five years of his life. Now safely living with his father in Florida, this fourth grader wanted to do something for the homeless and built his Blessing Box two years ago. He has almost 50 homeless visit his box each week and neighbors come from all around to help keep it stocked. While these boxes have popped up everywhere from Texas, to New York, to Florida and everywhere in between….no one seems to know the original designer of this beautiful concept.

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter whose original idea it was. What matters is the fact that people all over the country, young, old, rich, poor and everything in between are simply helping one another. Even more importantly, the idea keeps spreading. Kindness and goodness are contagious and I would like to believe at the core of who we all are. The Blessing Box is just a perfect example of the goodness that exists in each of us.

charity Matters.

 

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Sit With Us

In light of last weeks events in Florida and the continued devastation of these schools shootings, my heart is heavy. These tragic events make me think there must be a way that we can come together to work towards a solution. Charity Matters is not a place for politics or debate but rather a community where people have gone through tragedy and turned their pain into  positive solutions, so the next person doesn’t have to suffer, as they did.

People that are hurting always hurt. A wounded animal will snap at you because they do not know what to do with their pain, other than to inflict onto the next. At the core of these shootings is a child isolated, rejected and in pain. So what can we do as a society to include these children before their pain grows and they become ticking time bombs?

One of the things that is different is that when we were growing up bullies didn’t follow you home, they didn’t taunt you on social media and the pain of not being accepted usually lasted as long as a school day. One brave young girl might just have the peer-to-peer solution to this bigger problem that stems from bullying and the isolation that goes with it. Her name is Natalie Hampton and she is the creator of the App Sit With Us.

Natalie was bullied just like an estimated 20% of American teenagers. She decided to change all of that by using technology not to be a victim but to empower and unite isolated teenagers. Her app allows students to find others who do not have a group to sit with at lunch and bring them together so that they are not alone.

The nonprofit that I run works with thirty-one high schools and we tried to partner with Natalie earlier this year on a project to create Sit With Us clubs, which is how I learned about her amazing work. While the project may have to wait until next year with all Natalie has going on. These days Natalie isn’t worried about being alone, but rather just the opposite. She has taken her pain to use it as fuel to bring others together. As Natalie said, “I am using my story to unite others.” 

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Max: A Force for Goodness

 

All of you who have been reading Charity Matters for the past few years know that Max Page  and his family have become dear friends to Charity Matters. You may remember Max as Little Darth Vadar of the infamous Super Bowl commercial a few years back or from a number of posts we have done featuring his incredible philanthropic work over the years.

I met Max and the Page family through our mutual work at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where Max has spent a lot of time over the years. Max was born with a congenital heart defect and over the course of the last 13 years has had 12 surgeries. This past week Max went through yet another surgery on his heart,his 13th,  to replace a valve that his body has outgrown. Each year over 40,000 are born with congenital heart disease.

His mother Jennifer said, “When Max was an infant, he had an incredible will to live. At age 4, he asked how much surgery would hurt? At 7, he wanted to know why he needed to go through with this and now at 10 he is keenly aware of time and how precious it is.”

Max and his family have used his celebrity and innate goodness as a platform for so many wonderful causes. He is wise beyond his years and he and his brother are two of the most philanthropic young people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, thanks to their inspiring parents.

Max as always uses his experience to make others lives better, even at the tender age of 13. His hope is that if someone is inspired to do something because of his journey, that they would consider supporting a place that has given him so much and become a second home, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Heart Ambassadors program. Max recently said in an interview with Today, “I’m going to do whatever I can to help and do the best to bring awareness to kids like me.”  Max you already have and we are cheering you on during your recovery.

Charity Matters.

 

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A weekend full of service

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. The weather in LA was perfection and it was a great weekend to get out and come together in our communities. For me, Martin Luther King weekend ended up being a bit of a full circle moment. Years ago when my sons were toddlers I was extremely involved with a little children’s museum called Kidspace in Pasadena. At the time it was run out of an old school and was a homegrown space for young moms and children to come together to play and learn.

I met many of my closest mom friends at Kidspace, chaired their Halloween festival, benefit and advocated for the building of a then new museum near the Rose Bowl. I was passionate about supporting something that had given  so much to my sons. This past weekend, almost twenty years later I was asked to come to Kidspace in conjunction with Project Giving Kids to celebrate the weekend of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

It was so much fun working with young families and planting the seeds of compassion in children. We partnered with three different nonprofits (St. Vincent de Paul with Meals on Wheels, a local animal shelter and Reading Partners) and did simple craft projects such as creating Valentines Day Cards for homebound seniors, cat toys and book marks.

An unexpected treat was getting on the local KTLA news to share all of the wonderful work that we were doing.

While the weekend was full, there truly was nothing greater than seeing children understand the power they had to make someone happy and give of themselves…and to see parents understand the power of compassion and kindness in their children.

As Dr. King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” If the work that was done at Kidspace this weekend was any indicator the world is going to be just fine!

Charity Matters.

 

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A day of service and rememberance

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing in service for others?”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK day 2016

 

On Monday, we will honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A visionary, man of peace and an inspiration. It is only fitting that this great man is honored with a national day of service. Martin Luther King Day, the holiday, is often referred to as a day “on” rather than a day off.  Monday will be a day where millions of Americans will come together to honor his legacy by serving others.

Many will serve in their communities, churches or schools and for those who do not know where to begin, there are a number of places to start. For young families you can go to Project Giving Kids to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities. Another terrific starting point if you don’t have a plan is to take a look at Volunteer match this weekend.

Think of Volunteer Match as the eHarmony for nonprofits connecting you to a cause and volunteer opportunity that matches your passion, whether it is animals, the environment, education, you name it….there are thousands of service opportunities by location to choose from.

So, plan on making Monday a “day on” to honor this remarkable man through serving others. I’m looking forward to sharing with you next week how I will be honoring Dr. King. In the meantime,  ask yourself, “What are you doing in service for others?”

Charity Matters.

 

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Charitable children, it’s never too late to start

I am always so amazed that is the same time each year that I find people asking me for suggestions for raising philanthropic children. As a result, I share this post once again as refresher for all, holidays or not.

When my sons were younger I wondered if they were really understanding what we were doing as a family for others. We wanted to raise compassionate and charitable children, good humans. While my sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they certainly do a lot to help others. I am proud that each of them has found different ways to give back and share the gifts that they have been given. My oldest has a passion for serving inner city children. His younger brother, has recently gotten behind Movember and men’s health through his fraternity. His house is one of the top Greek organizations in the country for fundraising this year. The youngest, at 16, has recently gotten involved with a nonprofit, Once Upon a Room, that does hospital room makeovers for very sick patients.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what our family will do this season to help others. We have adopted soldiers for a year, adopted families over the holidays that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Childrens’ Hospitals and voted on which non-profits we want to support. Each person trying to convince the others why their cause is most worthy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to this question and that raising charitable children is an ongoing process. Families now have resources such as the nonprofit Project Giving Kids, which cultivates volunteer opportunities for young children and families. I read an article recently that said role modeling philanthropy is simply not enough. The article referenced a new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. The director, Debra Mesch, said “the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

Six Tips for Raising charitable children:

  1. Start early, as early as 4 or 5 years old. Giving becomes a habit.
  2. Talk to your children about what causes interest them and bring causes to their attention.
  3. Be intentional by involving your children in your own charity endeavors.
  4. Use online tools to research organizations to involve your children
  5. Be consistent. Make charity a part of your traditions, the holidays and birthdays.
  6. Emphasize the joy because giving feels great.

Benefits of raising charitable children:

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

While this topic is relevant for the holidays, it is important to remember that giving does not just happen once a year. Teaching the gifts you receive from giving should be a part of the year, not simply the season. Once your children feel how great it is to give, their lives will forever be altered in wonderful ways.

Charity Matters.

 

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Planting the seeds of compassion in our children….

This past weekend I was in San Francisco working with the nonprofit  Project Giving Kids, an amazing organization that helps families connect with  incredible philanthropic opportunities. Their motto is “connecting kids to causes” with the hopes of planting the seeds of compassion in our children. Honestly, it was the perfect way to kick off the season of giving and to celebrate tomorrow’s National Philanthropy Day.

I think so often when we hear the word philanthropy we think of fancy parties, old school wealth and privilege, when in reality philanthropy literally means the love of humankind. In 1986, Ronald Reagan proclaimed November 15th as National Philanthropy Day to bring the world together to recognize and celebrate the work that volunteers and donors bring into our communities each and everyday to make our world better.

Watching young children participating in a multitude of service projects at Project Giving Kids Create the Change Day gave me hope for the future. With all the negatively in our world, seeing young children and families helping others was truly witnessing the love of humankind…..and that is something I hope we can all experience not just tomorrow….but everyday.

 

Charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.