Fast Company Article #1 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Legacies of Giving

By Karen Rigdon

Inspired by the Fast Company December 1999 Article

Giving Back by Jill Rosenfeld

Ill never forget the conversation I had with my mother when she returned from a visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania. She had toured the planned community and school that Milton Hershey, chocolate and confectioneries magnate, had envisioned with his wife, Catherine in the early 1900s. The Milton Hershey School began as a combination school and home for four orphaned boys in the birthplace of Hershey, The Homestead. Since its humble beginnings the school has served to nurture and educate thousands of needy boys and girls who have gone on to live productive and meaningful lives.

The Milton Hershey School and community are thriving today because Hershey left his entire personal fortune to the school. The tree-lined streets of the support community boast libraries, recreational facilities, a theater, a trolley system, and even an amusement park. The K-12 grade school now focuses on the unique abilities, strengths, and needs of each child and has developed a new individual growth and development program called the MYPLAN. The dedication and generosity of the Hersheys awed my mother, If only more corporate giants would be so willing to give, she said.

Today, one century later, the incredible legacy of the Hersheys reminds us that we must dream, vision, share, give, and invest in the youth of today who will be leading our world tomorrow. If you want to empower people, invest in them. When you invest in people, you demonstrate that you believe in them, says E. David Ellington, founder of NetNoir, a multimedia company and Web site that caters to the African-American population. Ellington has invested in the disadvantaged youth in his community by offering multimedia internship opportunities and five-week training sessions in computer skills and languages.

It is fascinating to look to corporate giants, as well as smaller businesses, and discover what their philosophies of giving encompass. Norma Komali, founder and owner of Norma Komali Fashions of New York, believes that helping others is the greatest gift that you can give yourself. She volunteers in New York City public schools teaching high school students how to start T-shirt companies. Blending art, commerce, and technology, Komali meets with students throughout the concept, design, marketing, and sales of the T-shirts. She then helps them build a Web site to display their creations. Komali says, There are many ways to show kids that someones there for them, and they barely take any effort at all.

Millionaire musician Neil Young and his wife Pegi have contributed to education for many years. The fund-raising concerts they hold yearly in San Francisco enable the Bridge School to educate children with severe speech and physical impairments. The goal is for these students to have access to the special tools they need so that they can be participating and contributing members in their communities.

The incredible generosity of our local International Falls businesses and community members to educational causes is heartwarming. Marybeth Tuohy, International Falls Community Education Director, says, This town is well known for its generosity of funds, time, and talents. She is grateful for all the individuals in the community that have volunteered to mentor the areas youth through various programs. Mentoring provides necessary developmental assets, says Tuohy.

The Blandin Foundation is another blessing to our community. Established in 1941, by Grand Rapids newspaperman Charles K. Blandin, the assets of the foundation now total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, the Blandin Foundation is totally separate from the newspaper, but its mission, to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, would surely be endorsed by C. K. Blandin. The foundation is mindful that the future strength of a locale begins with proper preparation of the young.

International Falls was fortunate to be one of the communities recently chosen to pilot an initiative by the Northland Foundation. The contemporary yearlong youth leadership and mentoring program, funded by the Blandin Foundation, targets junior high school students showing leadership potential.

You do not have to be a CEO with record high company profits to make a difference to the youth today. Last year, while I was substitute teaching in second grade, a spirited senior citizen volunteered in the classroom. She played a portable keyboard and lovingly sang while the little children danced merrily beside their desks with homemade puppets on their hands. Then Grandma handed out treats when the party was coming to a close and it was time to get ready for math.

Recent surveys by the Search Institute have shown that the youth of our community need to feel cared about. As individuals we can show them we care by investing in them through the sharing of our skills, talents, time, or money. Each act of giving is likely to positively impact children, our nations most valuable asset, for many generations to come. Whether you volunteer to stay awake all night working at the post prom party or vote YES on a school bond referendum you are showing you care and it will make a difference.

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2000

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