What I’ve Learned

As this program is coming to an end, I get the opportunity to reflect on all I’ve learned, which is a lot! I’ve grown with my peers, getting a glimpse at their hearts, noticing what all they love, their passions, and their desires. I’ve learned about my community, and I’ve gotten to see the impact that nonprofits have on our community. I’ve been able to experience the warmth that comes with giving, which is what changed me the most.

Giving provides yourself with an overwhelming mix of emotions. It’s a combination of happiness, pride, but mostly of love. You see firsthand what you are helping, whether it’s people, animals, or the environment. You’re changing the world, maybe not drastically, but you are making a difference. Mainstreet Philanthropy has given me the chance to experience this feeling. It’s definitely nothing I’ll forget. I’ll forever look for ways to give back, ways to contribute, to change the lives of others. After seeing my impact on those around me, it’s definitely something that interests me in doing more of. Who wouldn’t want to make more people smile, more people be comforted, more people feel loved?

Crunch Time

As my team sat down together and discussed the information that we’ve acquired over the past few weeks from Mr. Scott, it was quite noticeable that we all learned something crucial from this course. Yes, we’ve learned how to read 990s, and how to judge if a company is efficient or if they’re spending their money properly. We’ve learned about various service projects and nonprofits in our area that are making a difference. We’ve listed to what representatives have to say about their cause and why they’re involved. We’ve read numerous mission statements, and each other’s blogs. One thing that isn’t quite so obvious, and that isn’t exactly part of the material covered in our binders, is what we’ve learned from each other.

Since the first week, we were matched up in groups based upon our common interests. These varied from religion, which was my group’s soul mission, to art and culture, to healthcare. Although we might not all choose to donate to the same cause or nonprofit, we’ve grown off of each other’s developments in the program. Within my group, we’ve all decided to donate to different nonprofits, however, we’ve learned off of each other and why they chose the charity that they did! Payton, who chose Give Kids The World, explained that he wanted to donate to something that really made an impact, and GKTW does just that. They way he described it inspired me to want to do something great with my gift, something that’ll make a difference.

We all decided where we wanted to donate off of our individual desires. Payton gave to something that changed the lives of children, Brianne did as well, Olivia gave to a Christian food service that fed over 2000 people daily, and I to a cause specific to animals and service training. We all had the soul desire to do the Christian and just thing, however it was evident that that separated into many smaller categories.

I’m looking forward to seeing the reactions of the nonprofits. That’ll truly be worth the weeks of research, studying, blogging, and tough decisions of what we wanted to make a difference with. Our philanthropy project soon will turn into more than a project; it’ll be reality, a difference, a change in people’s lives, after all, we are doing what we’re doing simply because we love others, and this will become evident to our community, a catalyst in spreading this compassion to everyone around us.

My Brother: Family, Friend, Inspiration

Charitable giving isn’t just a monetary action; it also includes service work, and giving yourself to the community. I know of many people who give back via community work, but one person really stood out to me: my brother, Connor. Connor is an inspiration to me in many ways. Not only is he intelligent, graduating from UF in the winter with a bachelors degree in Economics, he also possesses a good heart, as he’s an avid volunteer at his Catholic church in Gainesville, Florida.

Growing up with Connor, I’ve seen all of his sides. The “do not talk to me when I’m with my friends” side, the “I’m the older brother so I can do whatever I want” side, and the “you’re stupid, go away” side. I’ve always seen him as the older brother who would push me around, and mock me for everything that I did. It was a nice change, and an inspiring one at that, to see his passion, and devotion to something larger than himself.

“Volunteering is good for me because you learn to do things that aren’t what you’d usually want to do. In life, there are always things that you don’t want to do for others, but you should. These come more naturally for me now. If I could change anything, I would end abortion because it’s a great shame that we kill so many children every day and by doing so, we stop people from contributing to the world.”

His words struck me. I’ve never heard him speak so much truth in such a little period of time. I wanted to know more about what he has done to change him and to make him feel this way, and he quickly replied. “I was a part of a large food drive at my Church organized by Urban Meyer and we distributed over two hundred bags of food and supplies on thanksgiving to people across Gainesville.”

He explained that experiences like those have shown him the less fortunate in our own society. Volunteering shows you these people, it makes you more appreciative of what you have, and they inspire you to do more to help. However they can influence you to want to make a difference, those who give back can to. For me, my inspiration is my brother, a truly caring, Christian, charitable donor, one who has shown me the personal rewards that only community service can provide.

Evaluations of Organizations

Before making our final decisions of whom we want to donate to, we’re instructed to learn more and more about the organizations. Many questions come to mind when trying to decide  how efficient, or how well they are at doing what they do. What percentage of the funds that they raise are donated to the cause directly? Who is in charge of it? How many paid employees do they have? All of these little details add up to much more; they add up to the success of the nonprofit, and whether or not we should donate to them.

This past week really gave me more information on how to decide such a crucial element of philanthropy! Mr. Scott provided us with a list of questions that would narrow down the extraneous details, and get us the answers that we need to know. The questions varied from “How many volunteers do you have?” to “What would you change about the organization?” These questions will give me the boost I need in assuring myself as to where I should donate, and what I would actually be helping: the cause, or someone’s wallet.

I think that this step in the process is both easy and difficult. I want to get the information that I need, but at the same time, I don’t want to step on their toes and demand answers to questions that could potentially be hard to answer! Breaking down this process into different weeks has definitely made this easier as it allows me to focus on one element at a time.

As for now, my desired organization, Pawsitive Action, is looking good! They do great things for the community, and overall is an incredible nonprofit. I think I chose well.

Does it all add up?

So far in this journey, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my peers, and now this week, the organization I want to donate to! I’ve had a passion for animals and their wellbeing for the entirety of my life; I’ve actually had the aspiration to become a veterinarian since I was three. When I was initially told about this incredible opportunity that is provided by Mainstreet Philanthropy, I instantaneously knew exactly what I wanted to donate to.

My school, Harmony High, is a rare exception in the nation. Most high schools provide a specialty track for their students to participate in: engineering, medicine, carpentry, etc. Lucky for me, mine has Veterinary Assisting. Our program is a 4 year course with curriculum that could eventually get me certified as a Vet Assistant. This would not be possible without a non-profit organization called Pawsitive Action. These wonderful people provide dog training twice a week, in which they bring in 15 or so assistant dogs in for us students to work with. We teach basic skills, to specialty traits that diabetic alert dogs will need. The organization’s staff also plans and manages what we call “clinic days,” where a veterinarian actually comes in and performs spays, neuters, dental cleanings, vaccinations, and check ups with animals. They’re responsible for it all. Without Pawsitive Action, our program would not be the same.

As you can tell, the people, and the dogs, from Pawsitive Action mean a lot to me. I’ve learned so much from their assistance, and I knew that they were exactly who I wanted to donate to. They’re non-profit, and provide all of the services free, and out of the goodness of their hearts.

After examining their tax returns, I learned that they are a very good cause to give to. They do not make a lot in annual revenue, and all of their income comes strictly from donations and grants. The program’s expenses make up the majority of their expenditure. Overall, I found it fit to donate to them. I’m excited to go on in this endeavor, and I hope I can make a difference and express my gratitude to this spectacular organization.

Who’s Got Team Spirit? We do!

This week’s portion of our 8-week long journey consisted of addition learning about ourselves and our fellow classmates. As we walked into the classroom, Mr Scott awaited us with a smile. We sat down in our seats, and anxiously waited for our assignment of the day. He put us into groups based on common interests that he pulled from our Week One “Values and Concerns” sheet. Religion is the focus of my group, which consists of three others and myself. Our name? The Hearts of Hope.
We were told prior to Friday that we needed to bring in 3 items that were representations of significant aspects of our lives. I decided to bring in my rosary, as I’m a devout Catholic, vegetable soup because I’m a vegetarian and health is important to me, and a dog treat, as I adore animals and somehow always gravitate towards them. My group members shared items ranging from softballs to family pictures, and it really made me realize how similar we all are to each other.
After sharing our items, we collaborated on what our Mission Statement would be, and we decided on “We hope to impact the lives of others, by portraying God’s compassion through our actions as servants.” It really clarified what we are striving to do, which is to provide love and hope to our community through the blessings that the Lord has provided to us.
I’m nervous, but excited, to contact organizations this week. I hope that they’re just as willing to put effort into this project as I am, because in the end, I want to do something to make a difference in their organization! I expect that they will be, and I assume to receive many positive responses to this project, because after all, this opportunity is truly amazing.

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
— Matthew 20:28

My First Blog

So here’s to my first blog and one of my first steps to learning more about myself, my community, and making a difference via philanthropy! I’m really excited to make this journey, hopefully creating a change in my school amongst my peers, inspiring them to lead and to do selfless acts for others.

Last Thursday, Mr. Scott came into my Student Council class, and began the lesson on philanthropy. He emphasized the impact we could have as individuals, and as a unit. He taught the history behind the act, and what it truly means. By definition, philanthropy is the desire to benefit humanity based on love for people: a desire to improve the material, social, and spiritual welfare of humanity, especially through charitable activities.

One of our first steps to discovering more about ourselves and what charities we would like to donate to, we used a set of “Make A Difference” cards. It really surprised me when I picked and organized the various groups into priorities and preferences quite easily, even though they were all worthy causes. My best friend and I joked saying that we were disappointed in ourselves when we passed up cards such as “Hunger” or “Family” without even pondering them. Although I learned that my preferences weren’t necessarily revolved around assisting the welfare of humans, I did automatically put animal care as my top choice.

I cannot wait until Mr. Scott returns this week to continue on with the process. I hope to gain experiences that I would not encounter without the help of Main Street Philanthropy. I want to inspire my peers to help others without an expectation of something in return. I want to make a difference in the community, even if it’s a minor change, hopefully being a catalyst in the start of something incredible.