My Dad Taught Me About Community—And Giving

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My Dad will turn 90 this coming September. As some aspects of his life quiet down, his character and his stories have become more vivid for us, his family.  The child of immigrant parents in the Italian-American community in San Francisco, he survived World War II in the South Pacific. And he has gone on to experience so much through his profession in corporate sales, his travels, and most of all through his lifetime of friendships. We often revel in his lively ongoing community.

Dad’s history of community has been as charitable as it is social. As a member of the Geneva Excelsior Lions Club in San Francisco for more than 50 years, he has, with his co-Lions, coordinated fundraising events to benefit charities for the blind, at-risk youth, scholarships, and more. Even though he lives many miles from where they hold their meetings and events, his commitment to the organization and those involved—who have become old friends—remains steady.roxdad2014 - Copy (2)

The Lions strive to recruit new members. And by many accounts, membership in fraternal organizations is in decline. Longstanding supporters are aging. Many younger people—potential new members—spend more of their time working or pursuing personal goals. Though I also have a history of volunteerism, in recent years I have opted for one-off opportunities over invitations to regularly attend meetings with local organizations, due in part to my “busy schedule.”

Although changing lifestyles make recruitment to service clubs more challenging, the trend also reflects changes in the ways many of us give these days. While online cause-based social giving and crowdsourcing may keep more people in their living rooms, these platforms have also galvanized effective new communities around giving and provided new ways to give.

Can online giving replace the warm camaraderie of three friends working in a neighborhood soup kitchen, or 500 people attending a neighborhood crab feed and charity raffle?  Not necessarily, but if an online database or shared events alert someone, for the first time, to a compelling charitable organization in their area—one to which they are inspired to donate or volunteer—then ideally, those online tools have indeed achieved something more personal.

Like my Dad, I have always found volunteering a wonderful way to contribute, network, and make friends. But decades ago, when his kids were finding our own ways in life, he urged us to “learn about computers.” My pursuit of his suggestion, along with observing his lifelong example of engaging with giving communities, have brought me to the work I do with JustGive.

This Father’s Day, I thank my dad for showing me how to be charitable and get involved in community. Following the example he set for me, one way I contribute is to maintain an online registry, for supporting causes that serve the local community where I live.

– Roxanne Gentile, Director of Technology

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