November 19, 2019
During the hustle and bustle of a busy fall semester, taking a moment to appreciate the importance of philanthropy doesn’t always happen.
That’s why during National Philanthropy Week (Nov. 11-15) members of the Grinnell College Student Alumni Council wanted to make sure students recognize how philanthropy is intertwined with their Grinnell experiences.
“I think it’s important for students to know about philanthropy and give back to the College because we’ve been given such amazing opportunities,” said Kate Irwin ’20. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the previous time contributions and monetary donations from alums and students. I think it’s important for current students to accept the torch and be involved in that way.”
National Philanthropy Day was originally conceived by Douglas Freeman in the 1980s, and the first official national events were held in 1986 after President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation. The idea behind the day is to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – to the enrichment of the world.
While National Philanthropy Day was Nov. 15, students at Grinnell extended the occasion to a week to celebrate what alumni, friends of the College, faculty, staff, parents, and their fellow students provide the College. The Student Alumni Council organized events that reinforced the four themes of philanthropy: time, talent, treasure, and ties. Every residence hall had information about the four themes, and yard signs with philanthropy facts were displayed across campus.
Students gave their time on Nov. 12 to cook and serve a meal for more than 60 community members at Davis Elementary School.
The next day students took part in Zee Maps, an interactive program that allows students to tag where they are from and draw a tie to Grinnell. Alumni volunteers also filled out the maps with their current locations and small bios. Scott Lew ’22 said a sizable number of student stopped by to take part.
“We were looking at where people came from, how far they traveled to get here, and what connections they have on the map,” he said. “The students found the Zee Maps interesting. Overall, many students were curious about what National Philanthropy Week is and how they could get involved.”
Throughout the week, students wrote thank you notes to Grinnell faculty and staff. A total of 105 were penned. Additionally, the class of 2022 wrote roughly 250 thank you notes to each other during a Gratitude in the Grill event.
On Thursday, the Student Alumni Council sponsored Getting Involved: A Community Philanthropy Series. Students enjoyed fall treats while hearing from three community speakers: Julie Gosselink, a Grinnell College Trustee and president, CEO, and chair of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation; Angelina Ahrens, development director of Unity Point Health; and Nicole Brua-Behrens, executive director of the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation.
A student asked the panel what inspires them to do philanthropic work.
“Seeing the changes that have happened in our community over the years is really rewarding,” Gosselink said. “It takes everyone to make a wonderful, thriving, vital community. I feel Grinnell is special. A lot of people with diverse ideas, opinions, and backgrounds are trying to improve where we work, live, and play. To be part of that is a treasure.”
Ahrens said her favorite part is relationship building. She likes hearing ideas and brainstorming.
“Once you start bouncing around ideas, you find out where each other’s strengths are,” she said. “You have to check your ego at the door in order to be creative in how to solve an issue. Funding is getting more competitive. Communities have to get more creative in how using our resources. We have to get smarter and cheaper. The good news is there’s a lot of experience and passion here.”
Ahrens encouraged students to think about ways they would like to get involved. Many community organization offers internships and several community boards would welcome younger people to serve.
A talent gala Friday evening was attended by more than 100 people. Thirty four students submitted art pieces or 10-second videos showcasing their talents. Members of a student group, Weekend, taught attendees how to make origami. Kaitlyn Goss-Peirce ’20, Student Alumni Council co-president, showed students how to make holiday ornaments. Other craft projects and magic demonstrations rounded out the event.
To cap off the week, the class of 2021 served dinner to Mayflower retirement home residents on Saturday.
Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs, credited Goss-Peirce and Wajeeha Mariam ’22, Student Alumni Council philanthropy chair, for putting in a lot of hours to make the week a success.
“The schedule was packed, engagement was high, and the message was widespread throughout the campus,” he said. “This was the best National Philanthropy Week that I have been a part of here at Grinnell.”
—by Jeremy Shapiro