There's a story behind every act of generosity

By Sherry Ristau / President & CEO

Students participating in STEAM on Wheels’ Summer Camp.

Students participating in STEAM on Wheels’ Summer Camp.

Philanthropy is never an accident.

Generosity happens secretly, sympathetically, celebratory, impromptu, and strategically. Sometimes it happens in great big ways, and more often in small ways including volunteering time. And, it is never without a story. I would like to share a few of those stories with you.

Western Illinois University Student Sam McCullum started STEAM on Wheels in the Quad Cities to give kids the opportunity to incorporate art into science, technology and engineering. He is an ambitious, kind, community-minded Quad Citizen who generously committed to starting his organization with few resources because he wanted to inspire young creators who might transform our communities in the future.

I got to meet Sam for the first time last year during Forward Cities, where we traveled to Miami with other Quad Citizens to hear, share and collaborate on the ways we can enhance our neighborhoods, cities and larger region. During my time with him, I was inspired by this young man already doing great things—and eager to do more. This summer, I was proud to award him a Presidential Grant from the Community Impact Fund at the Quad Cities Community Foundation to support his summer camps. We couldn’t have awarded the grant without many of you who are generous donors to the Quad Cities Community Impact Fund.

You should know Sam. You should know so many others too.

Ann McGlynn started Tapestry Farms after connecting with refugee families through her church who came to the Quad Cities from war-torn countries. She wanted to do more—to walk alongside these new Quad Citizens as they transition to life in the United States. Thanks in part to a Q2030 Grant, she was able to hire two refugees this summer to work in local urban gardens, providing the women with the income and resources they need to access housing, health care, education and mental health support.

The trickle-down effect is clear: true kindness has been demonstrated and these women are now giving back to their new home.

And then there is Dr. Paul Freund, who really inspired me to write this reflection. He grew up in poverty and used the experience to passionately advocate for public health and welfare for people in poverty around the globe. Recently, Paul committed part of his estate to the Community Foundation, creating a legacy of service and forever funds. We have been so, so honored to hear that so many of you were inspired by the sharing of his story.

Sam, Ann and Paul remind me that generosity is passed from person to person, which is why it’s part of the fabric of this community. We couldn’t operate without giving to one another. Our dream at the Community Foundation is that there is no “final recipient” of a contribution, fund, grant or act of service. Every dollar given, every hour of time invested in someone outside yourself, is the next step to enabling and inspiring the next person to give.

This is how true transformation happens. It is how, when we look at the Quad Cities today, it is a more vibrant, giving, kind place than it was 10 years ago, five years ago, and even one month ago.

Let’s inspire each other through our growing generosity in the Quad Cities.

We want to hear your story of generosity.

Community foundations are not just about receiving contributions and putting them back into the community. Just as important, they are about identifying the ways generosity can inspire ideas, instigate actions, and transform the region forever. Who do YOU know is acting with generosity. Please tell me about them by emailing me here.

Ted Stephens III