When the Ice Bucket Challenge blew up in popularity online, I chose not to participate. Partially because I don’t care for internet fads (you will likely never see me change my profile picture in ‘solidarity' with anything), but more so because I felt many people’s posts were the definition of slacktivism. You dumped water on your head and therefore helped “spread awareness”... and also got a ton of attention from others on Facebook. Seemed a little more self-serving than charitable to me at the time. I suppose I could’ve donated money, but I didn’t for the same reason I don’t go running to save animals every time Sarah McLachlan comes on my late night TV. I don’t like to feel bullied into giving money to an organization I have no ties to just because someone on the other side of my screen tells me to. I’m happy to volunteer my time and donate my money to charities I care about on a personal level, and will do so as I see fit.
And I have donated, several times. Friends going on mission trips or running marathons will always have my support. But I usually cap it at $20, if even that. Having raised money myself before, I know that even small donations make an impact. Times are tough, so I keep my donations modest.
I work at a large company that has a partnership with the charity, United Way. Apparently, every October a company-wide campaign is hosted to raise money. If I felt peer pressured before by social media or infomercials, I wouldn’t even know what to call this. There are signs everywhere. Daily emails. Coworkers' testimonials playing on the screens in the elevators. Hearst is offering to match each donation dollar-for-dollar, which is amazing. $20 turning into $40? Yahoo! But the kicker is, we’re being asked to donate more money than that. A minimum of a few hundred dollars more.
I felt indignant for the first few days of the campaign. Who did they think they were, asking me to donate that much money? Did they realize how little they were paying me for that to be a realistic request? I wanted to boycott the entire event on principle. Donating to United Way, while a great charity, was just as anonymous to me as donating to the fights against ALS and animal cruelty.
Then I found out, that while they encouraged you to give to United Way, you could actually give to any charity, and they would still match your donation. Not only that, but you could split your donation between as many charities as you wanted. I thought seriously about it for a couple days, and slowly my resentment turned into excitement. I could send money to the specific nonprofits I love and support, and my company would match every dollar. Nonprofits that I have donated to in the past, but have lost touch with slightly after spending years in another state. I decided to give the full [minimum] amount that was encouraged of every Hearst employee.
My point in writing this is not to be all like “look at me, I gave to charity, I’m a good person,” but to share how full my heart feels. The $15 I gave here and the $20 I gave there in no way pierced my heart (or wallet) to this capacity. Knowing how much of a difference my contribution alone is going to make gives me chills.
The four organizations I chose to give to all have important meaning for me:
First Church of Christ is the church I was raised in and served for many years as my second home. I learned a lot about myself and my faith through their many amazing programs and services. Tithing is something we are supposed to do in my religion, but it's also something I want to do. I'm humbled to be able to give back some of which they've given me.
Road to Mafraq is a nonprofit founded and led by my friend Ellen that supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I believe the current refugee crisis is comparable in many ways to the Holocaust, how so many innocent people are being mistreated, abused and killed simply because of their natural identity and desire to live. Ellen is a kind, honest and generous person who has dedicated her life to helping those in the Middle East, and the least I can do is support her doing so.
Mikey's Place is a handicap accessible playground in my hometown built in memory of my friend's baby brother who had Spinal Muscular Atrophy and passed away. The playground is a staple in our community and in my memories. Donations go to the upkeep of the playground, ensuring it stays a clean and safe place for children of all abilities.
The Eleanor Buck Wolf Nature Center is home to critters of all kind, and serves as a fun place for children to learn about the world around them. It is run primarily by volunteers, and my brother Danny has been helping out for more years than I can remember. I appreciate what they contribute to the community (they sponsored my first softball team!), but more than anything, I appreciate the opportunity they've given my brother. He's developed amazing leadership skills and work ethic from his service there, and I love seeing him interact with the animals.
Though it's now been a long time since I've lived in Wethersfield, I will always feel such strong ties to the town... probably more than I ever will New York. No matter where I travel to or end up living, Wethersfield will always be my home. I feel closer to it now than I have in years, and am happy to remain a part of the community from afar.