I have made a career out of giving back, that is why I have become a “professional fundraiser” starting my career in the field of higher education.
But today was different than typical planning for annual appeals and special events. I was able to volunteer at a phenomenal organization in the city of Buffalo called The Teacher’s Desk, which seeks to provide teacher’s with free school supplies for students in need. After hearing founder John Mika open up about his experiences that led him to open this organization, you couldn’t help but feel touched and inspired.
“If you don’t have a pencil, you don’t have a chance.”
This was the first statement that John made that stuck out to me. After sharing his story of students who didn’t even have a pencil in order to work on an assignment, my heart sank. A pencil? It seems like such a minuscule, everyday item. Yet, so many students don’t even have that. If they don’t have a pencil, can they really succeed? The answer sadly is no. Those supplies are the tangible tools that allow them to learn, and allow them to be creative and visualize their dreams.
While it is heartbreaking to listen to the statistics of just how many students in our own backyard are so impoverished, it gives me hope that this organization is giving more than just pencils to those students. I’ve heard of several friends who shop at The Teacher’s Desk and many share the heartbreaking stories of what their students face day in and day out. Knowing that this organization isn’t just helping students, but those teachers who can do an even better job at helping these students succeed.
Today I felt that we helped students and teachers alike. We gave a little bit of hope to our teachers – those individuals who I think have one of the toughest jobs out there. We helped those students who down the line when they use the supplies we helped sort can explore their learning and their creativity. I feel we gave both the teachers and students right next door to us, their chance to succeed.
“The happiest people are the ones who give.”
This next statement reminded me of why I got into the career field that I did. Having a purpose in my work, and trying to give back and give someone a better today than yesterday, a better future than their past – that is rewarding beyond measure. Today I really got to experience that on a deeper level.
My job is to raise money for Hilbert College, but mostly for its students – many of who are first-generation students that face tall walls in paying for college. Raising money for them and knowing they can be given the opportunity of higher education is life-fulfilling. After all, I know how transformational my college experience was, so I know the importance and the value of what college can be for young adults. The volunteer work today allowed me to see where a lot of the college students I help start off.
Generally speaking, those students who are benefitted from The Teacher’s Desk are the students I see walking the halls at Hilbert ten years earlier. Many normally don’t have an abundance of opportunity and resources, but they work so hard to give themselves the best chance possible.
Today, my colleagues and I sorted and displayed books, and made fabric craft bags for teachers to use for projects. We cleared a pallet full of material and seemed to surprise John when we wanted to keep going, and with how much we accomplished. We made it fun, not only was it great for us to work as a team, but we felt like we served a purpose. By us being there for a few short hours we were helping someone and I think that made us all a lot happier at the end of the day. When you give back, the first feeling is always one of happiness.
MLK Franciscan Day of Caring
In honoring the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Hilbert College allowed its faculty and staff to participate in a day of caring. One group volunteering serving meals at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, the second group volunteering sorting supplies at The Teacher’s Desk. On an organizational level, volunteer opportunities like the MLK Franciscan Day of Caring are essential for employee engagement and retention – especially for millennial workers. So of course, when the opportunity presented itself, I instantly signed up. But after working, after hearing the stories of teachers and students and living the mission of this organization, it really helped me see that just one day at the desk will leave some great positive influence in the lives of our teachers and students who need it most.
Never underestimate the power of giving back, for both yourself and those whose lives you can change just with simple generosity!