A Lesson on Philanthropy
By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
Back to School. Dream about it or dread it, that first day is beckoning. Weeks will have a little less freedom and a little more structure. Store shelves that very recently held beach toys and outdoor patio cushions are loaded now with spiral notebooks, crayons, lunch boxes and backpacks. Bulletin boards will be decorated and homerooms will be assigned. All will be ready – ready to teach, ready to learn.
Often, I think, students and teachers inspire one other. We will always remember the teacher who saw the light in us and helped make us shine brighter; the English teacher who introduced us to a love of reading or the History teacher who brought dates and events to life. In the same way, I believe there are those students who make teachers better; students who show great progress and great promise - all the while reminding the teacher of his call to educate. On both sides, potential is realized.
Surely, too, lessons are learned outside the classroom. Soon, Friday nights will be about football, the halftime show and cheering for our team. Those on the field and those in the stands discover that winning is thrilling, but many times losing teaches us more. Extracurricular activities take students from that which is required to that which is chosen – an opportunity to demonstrate passion, commitment and leadership.
It is heartening to observe students of all ages engage in community service, and our schools encourage it. There are numerous benefits to participating in this type of experience: helping others, improving the community, strengthening a resume or college application, developing friendships, boosting personal growth. An amazing example of this type of project is the annual Pantry Raid competition between John Tyler and Robert E. Lee High Schools. Every fall, students from both schools collect food and funds to benefit the programs of the East Texas Food Bank and the fight against hunger in our community. The school that collects the most amount of food earns bragging rights and proudly displays the traveling trophy at their school for the year. This friendly competition has fostered school and community spirit for 25 years and, in that time, the Pantry Raid has collected more than 1.23 million pounds of food. Incredible energy. Incredible results.
Another illustration of future philanthropists is G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) which is a unique program of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. This initiative was launched in 2014 by the Women’s Fund to teach area high school girls about philanthropy - its purpose and its impact. The goal is to unite girls from all backgrounds and to focus, not on their individual differences, but on their shared visions and hopes for a better community. They learn about real issues affecting Smith County and how, together, they can bring about positive change. They work, side by side, to raise funds, research local agencies, review grant applications and vote on the organization which will receive their annual grant award. In the process, there are many voices to listen to, including their own. The girls learn to think independently yet the greater good is the ultimate aspiration. Goodness given to Refuge of Light, The Magdalene Home and Hope Haven of East Texas for a total of nearly $12,000 in the last three years. Because of what they learn through this program, these girls become givers for life.
At different times, each of us is the teacher or the student. But Robert Fulghum had it right in his book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” At the top of his list of things he learned: Share everything. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” A beautiful lesson on philanthropy - to teach and to learn.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of Women’s Fund of Smith County whose mission is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. For more information about membership to this giving circle and about G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) please visit www.womensfundsc.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org The Kick Off Event for this year’s G.I.V.E. program is September 18.