By the Bridge

I’ve wondered what I would do if I won or came into a lot of money. I am not talking about thousands but millions of dollars. Right about now you are probably thinking the same thing. Would I work on giving back somehow to our community? Would I become a philanthropist? I often wonder why people give of their resources… their time or money. According to an article titled ‘The science behind why people give to charity’ (March 2015) from The Guardian states that research has revealed that “spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves” and “being happier makes us healthier.”

Many people believe philanthropy is the act of giving money to some charity but it’s much more than that. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, philanthropy is an “active effort to promote human welfare” or “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian welfare.”

There are many businesses and individuals fully committed to community giving and philanthropy in our community. Often the act of giving goes unseen and unrecognized. One such organization I want to recognize is the McDonald’s Restaurant Franchisee here in Lethbridge. In my work as a Diversity Officer, I am often involved in the planning or execution of community events that are meant to educate or build bridges of connection and understanding for our community. One thing I’ve learned from my Dutch upbringing is that food and drinks, especially coffee, helps bring people together.

In 2017, I approached the local Scenic Drive McDonald’s Restaurant to advise the owners and management of a new program I was co-creating. The program was about connecting to the marginalized people in our community. I love meeting with and hearing people’s stories; I love coffee and I love food – especially those breakfast sandwiches. McDonald’s didn’t hesitate in sponsoring the program and simply asked how many breakfast sandwiches and how much coffee was needed. The I’taamohkanoohsin (meaning “everyone comes together”) Tipi (in the park) program was born. Over the years we’ve had many diverse groups visiting the tipi. Bhutanese, Syrian, Hutterites, and curious community members have all been welcome to come and sit and connect over coffee and snacks provided by the McDonald’s Restaurant. Although the ownership of the local McDonald’s Restaurant Franchise has changed, the commitment from the new owners remains the same as they are most willing to support our community.    

Many of us are already giving in some ways that help our community. We don’t need to have a lot of cash to participate in community giving and philanthropy as the most valuable asset we all have is our time. Community giving and philanthropy also gives us a sense of ownership of our community. Given the recent environmental changes in our communities, maybe community giving and philanthropy is exactly what’s needed.    
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