My Turn: Giving to your community

  • Sunday, December 20, 2015 1:02am
  • Opinion

Earlier this year, the Juneau Community Foundation asked a handful of longtime local philanthropists a simple question: Why do you give? Their answers varied widely but intersected in one important way. All of the people we spoke with recognized that their individual actions, big or small, have the power to create lasting change in our community.

Julie and Peter Neyhart, who were named the Foundation’s Philanthropists of the Year in October, spoke to this idea when they accepted their award. The Neyharts’ generosity is a reflection of their awareness of each person’s role in making Juneau a better place.

“Juneau is a wonderful community filled with many and varied opportunities to enrich lives,” Julie Neyhart said. “The more all of us share, the better our community. Some share talent — we hear beautiful music. Some support our theaters — we read their names on the programs. Some support youth through scouting, 4-H, helping in classrooms or with school-related activities. Some always take time to chat with children wherever they meet them. Some donate to the Glory Hole, others work to end homelessness. We are all philanthropists. Together we make Juneau better.”

The Neyharts also highlighted the idea that philanthropy doesn’t always involve money. It involves giving what you have, whether it’s time, talent or treasure, in order to strengthen the bonds between us.

Other philanthropists cited a family history of philanthropy, a desire to support an important cause such as suicide prevention, a passion for a special project and an awareness of the fragility of good fortune. All of us, at one time or another, may need a hand.

As we reflect on Community Foundation Week and this giving season, we are proud to be one of the 750 community foundations nationwide that bring donors together, identify needs, convene community gatherings and make grants that build a stronger community.

The foundation makes philanthropy easy; we provide services that help people invest in the causes and organizations about which they are passionate. Donors direct gifts toward a wide range of interests and projects, including recreation programs, schools, scholarships, social services, arts program, cultural events or other nonprofit agencies. By pooling and investing individual donations the foundation helps support important philanthropic goals while creating a permanent endowment for future needs.

As you prepare for the holidays, take a moment to consider what and how you can give back to your community.

• Amy Skilbred is the executive director of the Juneau Community Foundation.

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