Philanthropy is such an impressive word. It’s long, sometimes hard to pronounce, and really, just what does it mean? According to Webster’s Dictionary philanthropy is defined as:
1. goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare 2. a/an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes b : an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.
Today, we often think of philanthropists as very wealthy people that make large donations either personally or through a Foundation. Everyone is familiar with the Nation’s top three: Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Michael Bloomberg, but all of us can be philanthropists in one way or another. Philanthropy is way of sharing and we can help others by giving any of the three W’s: wealth (giving money), work (volunteering to help), and wisdom (giving others the advantage of their knowledge).
In Owatonna we are very blessed to have a community full of philanthropists. Every day we hear stories of people giving financial support or of their time and talents to the many local organizations that enhance our quality of life every day right here in our own backyards. So how will we ensure that this philanthropic spirit thrives and continues into the future? A simple way to ensure ongoing philanthropy is by setting the example in our own families so that our children can see firsthand how philanthropy works-it can be as simple as using the three W’s within your own family. We can create a culture of philanthropy just by how we live our day to day lives.
There is also another way that local children will be learning about philanthropy. The Owatonna Foundation is proud to be partnering with Junior Achievement’s (JA) BizTown program to present a lesson to all Owatonna sixth grade students. JA is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about financial literacy, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurship through experiential, hands on programs. In 2016-2017 JA impacted 5,061 Owatonna students with 34,698 program hours. How did they do this? Through the philanthropic spirit of many local volunteers, donors, and businesses, and with programming that utilizes the principles of financial literacy, market based economics, and entrepreneurial thinking to teach youth about the global economy, consumerism and employment.
In April, the Foundation’s Staff and Trustees will be at Owatonna Middle School to present the lesson on philanthropy and the jobs that are associated with it. Students will also have the opportunity to choose from several local charities and make a real donation to that organization as the Foundation is providing funding for the students to experience the joy and gratification that comes by making a gift to others. The Foundation’s hope is that all these children will become inspired to carry the spirit of philanthropy into their own lives, whether by showing an act of kindness, volunteering to be of service to others or making a monetary donation. These children are our future and the future of those that will follow them. It will be up to them to carry on the spirit of philanthropy that we currently have here in Owatonna.
To those of you that are our everyday philanthropy heroes-thank you! Thank you for doing the deed that brightens a day, for volunteering for an organization that you are passionate about, or the countless other things you do that make this an awesome community. We encourage everyone to “up” their philanthropy quotient and experience the pure joy that comes with it! All of us at the Owatonna Foundation are proud to partner with all of you. Your philanthropic spirit is what makes Owatonna the amazing community we call home!
Laura Resler is the Executive Director of the Owatonna Foundation