The world in which I grew up (in Brooklyn, NY) was all about neighborhoods and people in those neighborhoods taking care of each other even though none of us had very much in the way of financial resources. It didn”t matter how little we had, when someone in our apartment building needed a meal, my Mom cooked one for them.# When my parents were asked to give to a charity, they did – always $18. So the seeds were sown for me.
More than 25 years ago when I arrived in Gwinnett, I was looking for a way to get involved in the community and at the time the United Way Board meetings were held in my church. Next thing I knew, I was on the Board and committed because I saw an organization that made sure the precious dollars were invested wisely.# Programs that received support were measured and held accountable to make a difference.
I had the chance to attend a luncheon with a small group of community minded women held in Duluth almost ten years ago and the keynote speaker was Johnnetta Cole. She brought us copies of her book “Dream the Boldest Dream”# and she talked about how critical it was for women to learn about philanthropy. I was surprised to realize how little I understood and how little I was really doing at that point. I gave, but I never talked about giving. I never was the example my parents were for me as I thought it was somehow wrong to be public about my contributions.
The United Way Women”s Leadership Council has emerged from those beginnings and we are making a difference. It is not all about working – we know how to have fun and if you haven”t joined us for our “Doing Good”# can be fashionable annual fashion show in the past, make sure you are there this August 27th (legacyfashionshow.unitedwayatlanta.org). You can look at the many, many organizations we are helping to take care of the women and children in this community in such a meaningful way.# (Norcross Cooperative Ministry, The Salvation Army and Gwinnett Community Clinic to name a few)# The proceeds from the fashion show quickly go back to the community to improve lives.
One of the wonderful elements of our fun day is the opportunity to celebrate women who have embodied being an influencer, a giver, an organizer, a serious philanthropist. Some get there with a purposeful walk and others start out with a small step and because it is the right step it blossoms into so much more.# In each season of our lives, we have something to give and the awards honor Time, Talent and Treasure.# Then there are those who walk this path for a very long time and we have the chance to honor these women with our Anna Shackleford Legacy award, named after a woman who has embodied the concept of putting others first for decades.
So where will you be on August 27th, 2011?# If you are not at the Gwinnett Place Marriott starting at 10 am, you will miss the chocolate, the dance music, the fashion, the food, the silent and live auctions and the chance to honor four amazing women.# More importantly, you will miss one of your chances to change the lives of women and children in Gwinnett County.
I promised you the rest of the story.# I was raised Jewish and in Hebrew the symbol for life and the number 18 are the same (Chai). So when my parents had very little but wanted to give, they always gave $18.# That is how I began my journey, too.# As my ability to give grew, I multiplied that number or added that amount to my giving – but it has always been a reminder that you can start small in a meaningful way.# If that is what you can afford – give $18 and invite all of your friends and family to do the same.# We can change the world $18 at a time.