January 17: Why I Give
Why I Give
A monthly reflection on giving
Like many, my story begins with my childhood. Growing up, I remember saving up quarters to drop in the church basket. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these small acts of philanthropy were laying the groundwork for how I would incorporate philanthropy throughout my entire life.
As I grew, so did the depth of my philanthropy and my love for serving others. By the time I reached college, I was ready for a challenge and explore new ways of engaging in philanthropy. Up until that point, giving and service had been a consistent aspect in my life. Although my personal interests, styles, and activities changed; my involvement in giving and service remained the same.
While in college, I was heavily involved in the Volunteer Center and Alternative Spring Break program. Each trip introduced me to a new social issue; enabled me to play a role in addressing a critical need; and helped me gain new skills, perspectives, friends, and memories. My junior year, I traveled to Nashville, TN and volunteered with the United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee. During this trip, my team was tasked with building wheelchair ramps for individuals who could not afford to ensure their homes were accessible. I will never forget the look on the faces of the individuals and families who were able to safely access their homes for the first time – a task many of us may take for granted. It was this trip in particular that inspired me to join AmeriCorps and dedicate a year of my life to serving others and giving back.
My first year with AmeriCorps is one I will never forget. I served as an AmeriCorps*NCCC Corps member in Charleston, SC. AmeriCorps*NCCC a traveling, team-based national service program for individuals 18-24. Those 10 months were the most challenging, physically demanding, discouraging, fun, rewarding, and unforgettable months of my life. In September 2005, my team left on our first disaster relief tour to Waveland, MS. Even though we spent over a month in intensive training and preparation, I am not sure any level of training could have fully prepared us for what we were about to face. When we arrived, we were surrounded by devastation. Homes were destroyed, trees were uprooted, and the ground was covered in debris and personal belongings. However, among the remnants of what used to be a community you could still find beauty present. Witnessing complete strangers providing aid and comfort to residents, and seeing the pure strength, resilience, and hope of the residents was truly inspiring. My AmeriCorps experience changed my life. It transformed the way I view the world, the problems in our society, and my role in addressing these issues.
What started with small acts of philanthropy as a child has become a way of life for me. I am grateful to have found a career in service; opportunities to surround myself with other like-minded individuals who value of philanthropy and service; and live in a community that prides itself on its strong values of service and engagement. I give because it has become a way of life for me. It allows me to make positive contributions to society and inspires me to be a part of the solutions to the issues affecting my community and world. It has introduced me to new places, remarkable people, new ideas, and perspectives. I give because I believe it makes me a better daughter, sister, friend, colleague, leader, and citizen.