Tuesday was giving Tuesday, but it shouldn’t just be on any one day. It is simply fun and so rewarding to help others. I would even argue that we are helping ourselves more (mentally and emotionally) when we are helping others.
Life throws out so many challenges to everyone, and not everyone has time and certainly not money readily available, so I would also like to feel that community service could be interpreted as giving a helping hand along the way. Helping someone cross the street (assuming they want to cross the street of course – ha!), offering some money to someone less fortunate, taking over a meal to a friend who is ill, taking that extra frozen turkey or ham to a soup kitchen, all wonderful gestures and definitely serving the community if even on a limited basis.
It’s funny as I see how my helping others has evolved over the years. When I found myself alone in the city back in the 1970’s, and missing my family, I sponsored a child in Brazil with monthly donations, then became a ‘Big Brother’ to a young boy in the city. When I married and couldn’t become pregnant, I volunteered at the city’s Foundling Hospital one night a week after work. I became pregnant in 3 months! It took my mind off me!
As a parent, we try to encourage our children to give to the community too and in ways that they can enjoy also. As they see us giving, they will follow in our footsteps.
When my children were younger, we delivered meals on wheels for 7 years. Not every day, but every other Sunday, and as one child couldn’t make it due to sports, etc. the other son would accompany me. I have great children, and it was fun. We met so many interesting people along the way.
Through delivering those meals on wheels, I noticed that my visit was THE only visit some of the older citizens received. My heart cried for them, and I made a Valentine’s Day cake for one older lady who I thought was very special. She gave a card to me on my next visit, thanking me for the cake, as she never thought she would ever receive a Valentine’s Day gift from anyone anymore. Oh my goodness! I asked Patricia Showers, the Director of the program if I could make a Birthday cake for each the home bound receiving meals on wheels. I started making cakes for them on their Birthdays, but it didn’t last more than a year or so as it became too complicated for the program. My heart was there, and I enjoyed the experience. One lady informed me that her grandson played football at West Point and was in the newspaper. I went out and bought several copies of the newspaper for her. On my next visit, I excitedly gave her the copies of the newspaper with her grandson featured thinking it would make her happy, but she had forgotten all about it… age had stepped in.
I can recall making a Thanksgiving complete dinner and delivering it to a Halfway House in White Plains on Church Street one Thanksgiving… taking foods to the Hope Kitchen when it was at the church on Lockwood Avenue. I think we all try to give in ways that have meaning to us. In my case, my family was in England, and while I had a loving family here, I would think about all of those less fortunate who were away from their families, and needed that small connection. In truth, one lasting memory stayed with me and still does to this day. When I was about 10 years old, I had written to Oxfam to help starving children in Africa. I had received an envelope, and donation envelopes or something similar. That was as far as it went, and I never sent any money as I had none to give. I was terrified that someone would knock on my door asking for the money, but I think it made me want to make up for not giving at that time. I once brought home a school mate and asked if he could stay for dinner. My mom said that she had no food for him, and that memory also had a lasting effect on me too. I felt so badly towards that young friend who lived in a lean too if my memory is correct. On another note, I would have gladly given him my brussel sprouts and greens …
As my children grew a little older, and they were involved in so many sports, so my contact with others also changed direction, but not community involvement. I noticed that many youngsters in the Pop Warner Football team were not as fortunate as we were. SO, I volunteered to have two boys join me after school, so I could help them with their homework. The goal? SO their test scores would improve allowing them to make it to the Championship Bowl game, an overnight trip over the Thanksgiving Holiday which was a treat for all who went. Also, one young man was offered a scholarship at Iona Prep School but he needed better scores. Alas, right after the football season ended, my young friends disappeared also as it was then basketball season. I also learned that their neighbors made fun of them for having a white friend . That saddened me, and realized that if my face were a fixture then I would not be the oddity in their lives? So, not to give up, I thought I would reach out to the community by contributing time at the local Boys and Girls Club. Ostensibly, I was still trying to connect with the two young men, but I had lost them.
However, I thought on how I could contribute making it fun for myself and my youngest son, then around 2 years old. I asked if I could teach cooking. My youngest son, Brett was just 2 or 3 or so at the time, and he would accompany me. I did this for 2 years over the winter months, helped assist in one Holiday party too, and it was a fun and rewarding experience.
I can recall making gingerbread houses for the entire Special Education classes at the Ward School one year. I went from classroom to classroom, bringing in the icing and candy decorations for all of the children and helped decorate those houses. I also helped as a helper in a special education classroom when my younger son started Kindergarten. I showed the children how to make papier MÂché, and we made puppets and bowls! We all loved it!
I have been a soccer mom, baseball coach (the other coaches must have hated it but I would handle the paperwork and equipment!), and when a son joined a luge club, I created the “On the Fast Track” bulletin for the Adirondack Luge Club, where I obtained some advertising, featured articles on the luge athletes ( hopefully some humorous ones), and designed and offered merchandise to the athletes also. PTA Co-Treasurer – been there done that! Organized a party for the School – check! I was also a Student Advocate for 2 years too helping young students obtain required services. After 9-11, we (our soccer team) held a garage sale with proceeds going to the local firefighters who had helped at Ground Zero.
My children and I collected coats for the needy one year too, delivering them to the Bronx. I have no clue where I found the organization as it was so many years ago before the internet, but it was something I thought would help others, and my sons were actively involved.
I always wanted to answer a child in need’s request for a gift from Santa. That was one disappointment. I went to the Post Office in Grand Central, and asked for some letters to Santa. Unfortunately, my letters were from a teacher who had instructed her class to write to Santa as a project to get free gifts, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with that? It took the romance out of giving from the heart. Nothing should be contrived? That is important. We should give because we WANT to, not because it is expected of us?
My middle son and I gave a $250 gift (not much I know) for 7 years at the high school to a student in Special Education . We called it “The Power to Excel Award”, and we wanted it to go to someone who wasn’t that A or B student but rather someone who was either physically challenged or learning disabled and who simply worked his/her the hardest they could.
Now that I am in real estate, I work 7 days a week, totally support my family, and so my time is limited. However, I love animals, and was a volunteer at the local Humane Society. Well, as we all know that is just an excuse to adopt another pet! I would go on Holidays and snow days to help clean the cages and feed the pets so the workers could leave a little earlier or at least on time, and along the way, I found Binky! Once adopted, so ended my volunteering there.
Community service has allowed me so many different avenues of wonderful experiences. I was on the Advisory Board for the Scarsdale Adult School for quite a few years, and then on the Board of Directors there too, but that I think was just rewarding for me !
Now that my time is limited due to my work, this is where donations come in handy! We all have our favorites, and I like to give to the Humane Society of Westchester in New Rochelle (it used to be the New Rochelle Humane Society), and to the Mount Vernon Animal Shelter. I recently was one of the sponsors for a Turkey Trot Race with the proceeds going to local charities, so while I am not as involved nowadays timewise, my heart is still there to help others in ways that I can. My office and company is very active in Philanthropic endeavors, and I help there when I can, but we all have our favorite charities which speak directly to us. If clients have unwanted items then I always encourage them to donate to the local charities too.
So, I would just say that to help is grand, to love what you are doing even better!
Westchester is GREAT