char·i·ty (chărĭ-tē) n. pl. char·i·ties
- Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.
- Something given to help the needy; alms.
- An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.
- An annoying blonde girl I went to school with.
In all seriousness, I’ve been involved in charity work for as long as I can remember. I believe in lending a helping hand whenever possible. I also believe that “whenever possible” can always be afforded more time.
I come from a family with a strong sense of civic duty. We have soldiers and Marines, volunteers and humanitarians. Perhaps it’s our New York upbringing and the unavoidable pride that comes along with being from such an amazing place or maybe it’s just what my grandmother instilled in us. Regardless, the high standards we should all live up to are the same standards I demand of myself and the people around me.
My passion for doing good works started at a young age. I was always the child who looked at all the homelessness in New York City and wondered what I could do to help. I wondered what our government could – and should – do to help. I would clean up other people’s trash from the streets and ask why we weren’t recycling more. I researched the Hudson River and wrote to my Congressmen and Mayor asking why they weren’t doing more to reduce and put an end to contamination from industrial waste, sewage discharge and medical waste. My mother would use my political activism as a parlor trick for friends and strangers. She’d stand me on a soapbox as a single-digit aged child and have them ask me about my Presidential campaign. I’d talk about my stance on foreign policy, education reform, environmental issues, abortion, civil rights. Once in high school, I joined Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the Air Force. I knew this experience would be an amazing one, but I didn’t know it would lead me to an event that would change the course of my adult life.
Civil Air Patrol is an organization with a firm stance on volunteerism. One of our volunteer events was to assist at a soup kitchen. We got up extra early and made our way into Manhattan. I remember it was a particularly cold day for late Autumn. I’m not sure what relevance that has here, but it’s a poignant sensory memory for me. We had no idea what was going to be asked of us and I didn’t know how much of an impact this one day would have on me. We got to do a little bit of everything; we organized the pantry, organized donations, prepared food, cooked food and served food. We also did all of the clean up, as well. I was 14 years old and thought it would be great fun to get involved. And then the people started lining up. While being served food by myself and the other volunteers, they would look into my eyes with equal parts gratitude and desolation. One woman felt the need to explain why she needed this free food, letting me know about how she lost her job and then lost another job because they felt she was under-educated. She never got the opportunity to go to college because she had to go straight to work to support her ailing father who didn’t have the money to pay for medicine, let alone college for his daughter. Watching someone appreciate one meal, one roll, one small container of milk helped further fuel a fire that was always burning inside of me. In the end, I was right. We had a lot of fun. I got to hang out with my friends, joke around and cook food. But, what it really was – rewarding. In more ways than the social ones. I was able to help people who were struggling to help themselves. I was able to help keep people’s hope alive because once the food runs out, many options do as well. This one event led to years of volunteer work and years of this passion growing.
This led me to starting Austin Browncoats, a non-profit organization based in Austin, TX. This was the next step in my philanthropy. I needed to do more; I needed to be more hands-on. I decided that I needed to be more than just a donor. I decided that I needed to be more than just a girl on a soap box. In 2007, I found myself in a city full of like-minded people who wanted to work with me to start a charity with a huge mission – the end violence and discrimination worldwide. Most non-profit organizations have two large dilemmas they face: gathering a volunteer force and raising funds. Austin Browncoats tackle these issues head on. We gather the volunteer force and raise the funds so that our supported charities can continue to fight for what we all need to believe in; we are all created equal.