The holiday season is a time for giving to the causes most dear to us. Mailings asking for donations and celebrations with family and friends remind us the need to take care of each other.
M Living features five people who give back to our community, year-round in different ways. Their philanthropic efforts inspire us to think of those in need throughout the year, not just during the holidays.
Increase Your Happiness
One key to longevity is generosity
Generosity is a cherished value for a most Americans. Charitable donations and legacy plans took a big hit in the Great Recession of 2008. Giving has not quite recovered, but studies show one key to longevity is generosity. Older people who are generous tend to have better health, according to Dr. Philippe Tobler, associate professor of neuroeconomics and social neuroscience at University of Zurich. Other research from Tobler’s group supports the conclusion that spending money on others can be as effective at promoting health as medication or exercise.
Tobler’s study shows a positive association between helping others and life expectancy “because helping others reduces stress.”
If you’ve been meaning to start or increase your support of non-profits, this is the perfect time. Charitable giving can satisfy a trifecta of goals: supporting worthwhile organizations, increasing your own satisfaction and happiness along with tax benefits.
Books 4 Buddies inspires young men to give back
Books 4 Buddies, a literacy program that provides leisure books to disadvantaged youth, is an example of what can be accomplished when young people are motivated to help others.
The impetus, Goings explains, to start the program came to her when she was in Atlanta with her grandson. “We were driving near an underserved community called Bankhead Courts, which was built in the 70s over a landfill and has since been demolished,” she said. She turned to her grandson, then 14 years old, and asked him how he would like to help the kids in that community. “That’s how it all really started.”
The program is driven by its teen ambassadors, boys like Goings’ grandson, who volunteer to promote the organization’s mission. The ambassadors are a diverse group of young men who have a passion for helping other young people. “They’re black, they’re white, they’re Latino; they go to public and private high schools,”Goings said. “It has grown and now travelled across the ocean. We now have ambassadors in Asia, Africa, and Europe – they’re all over the place.”
Visit books4buddies.com to make donations, learn about board membership and find out how young men can become ambassadors.
Putting her best foot forward for Hannah’s Socks
Hannah’s Socks is an organization that provides socks and undergarments to those affected by poverty, homelessness, and domestic abuse. What drew Executive Director, Robin Laird, to the organization was that it began with a child seeing a need in her community.
“I’ve been an educator my entire career,” Laird said, “from being a special ed. teacher to an assistant principal, I’ve always recognized when kids got involved. There are so many kids who have so much, and they don’t necessarily recognize that others are in need. I liked the idea that this little girl had discovered (this need).”
Laird began volunteering for Hannah’s Socks in 2007 and joined the board in 2008. After she retired as the assistant principal at Perrysburg Junior High in 2014, she became the organization’s Executive Director. The Turner family, who had began the organization was moving, so it was the perfect time for her to take the position.
To contribute, people can donate year-round. Monetary donations go toward buying socks for those in need, or people “can hold sock drives if they’re involved in a church organization, club, or sports team,” Laird explained. “People will hold sock drives for us, which is really helpful, or they can contact us to see if there are volunteer needs.”
To learn more about holding a sock drive or to donate, visit hannahssocks.org.
Paws and Whiskers leave paw prints on her heart
Jan Aguilar actively volunteers her time with charitable causes, including Paws and Whiskers, Toledo’s no-kill, feline-only shelter. Now a board member since June, she started out volunteering with socialization through Reiki, a type of energy healing.
“I saw that it helped with behavior issues and helped them calm (the cats) down,” Aguilar said. “If they weren’t feeling well, it would stimulate their appetite.”
Aguilar’s volunteering led to more involvement with Paws and Whiskers, including help with events, fundraisers, and raising awareness about the shelter’s needs.
“I’m really passionate about taking care of animals, and I’ve always thought that people tend to look at cats, more than dogs, as being disposable; they’re not,” Aguilar said. “I got involved because there are so many stray and feral cats and I do what I can, in my little world, to help with that.”
She says there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to give back at Paws and Whiskers, starting, of course, with adopting a cat. The organization also needs volunteers to work at the shelter and help out at events.
Check out pawsandwhiskers.org to learn more about the shelter’s work and to make donations.
Helping prisoners cope through meditation
Karen Christie has been meditating with prisoners for over five years. She began by offering classes at the Toledo Correctional Institution. “We had people coming (to meditation classes) on a regular basis, and we really got to know them,” Christie said. “They became practitioners of meditation. Some of them even started groups to help other guys experience meditation, and to live in the prison in a positive, helpful way, rather than just seeing it as a negative.”
After the Toledo Correctional Institution became a high-security prison, it became difficult to continue the meditation group going again. Now, Christie and the other volunteers meet with groups of men and women at the Lucas County Corrections Center once a week.
“We hope that we’re planting seeds that they can fall back on at some point in their lives,” Christie said. “More than once I’ve heard inmates say that they got placed in solitary confinement and, when they were in that situation, what they fell back on was meditating.”
Christie said it is also rewarding to see prisoners take what they’ve learned during meditation and make meaningful changes in how they relate to other prisoners.
“Another thing we saw at the prison was the way the men carried the teaching of meditation and compassionate action into work with other men to help them get onto a more positive path… that was just heartwarming.”
Bringing diverse faith communities together
Judy Trautman and her late husband Woody founded the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio. The nonprofit, Trautman explains, was created to “bring diverse faith communities in Northwest Ohio together in fellowship, education for greater understanding, and collaborative community work.”
By bringing different faith communities together, the organization has helped mobilize people to improve our community, including building homes for Habitat for Humanity and establishing community gardens.
The Greater Toledo Compassionate Community was formed in 2014 as an initiative of the Multifaith Council. “We joined literally hundreds of cities across the world with that designation,” Trautman said, adding that the two main goals forthe group is to highlight stories about compassion and to “foster collaboration among religious groups and nonprofits.”
This year, the organization held a Poor People’s Campaign Teach-In. Building upon Martin Luther King’s campaign that he began 50 years ago, the purpose is to bring awareness about ongoing issues of poverty to help develop solutions.
Trautman said: “Over the 15 years since we (the Multifaith Council) were officially founded as a nonprofit, it’s been the storytelling, the recognition of shared humanity, common goals, and the building of a true multi-faith family which has been so comforting to me after the loss of my husband. We sometimes forget, in our daily lives, that there are people out there who share common issues and common solutions. We do a whole lot better if we work together than if we try to go it alone.”