The first time I made a charitable contribution I didn’t realize what I was doing. It was as an elementary school student when we raised money for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, by putting coins into milk cartons. At the time I hadn’t learned the word “philanthropy,” and I certainly didn’t know about UNICEF’s mission or that UNICEF benefits millions of children in over 190 countries. I was giving without really understanding it.
Things became clearer when, years later, I went into business as a Certified Public Accountant here in Juneau. I joined the Glacier Valley Rotary Club and became involved very quickly when, because I am a CPA, I was asked to join the board. Being a board member showed me that Rotary made good things happen in Juneau and beyond, and the benefits I received by being involved with Rotary were more far-reaching than I had expected.
Helping out can be rewarding and fun when you align yourself with causes and people that you care about. I had the opportunity to do just that in 2001 when I got involved in the Beat the Odds race, with lots of help from my friends and fellow Rotarians. Worried that not enough people would come out on race day, we worked hard to get sponsors and drum up support. On the day of the race, the clouds literally parted, the sun came out, and about 750 people showed up to the event. Being involved with Beat the Odds for the following eight years was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Cancer Connection now organizes this annual event, raising funds to support cancer patients in Southeast Alaska.
As residents of Juneau we see a lot of improvement brought about by individuals and organizations. How do we ensure that things continue to improve in the future, and how can we remain involved if, for example, we have retired and moved away? The Juneau Community Foundation funds projects that make Juneau a better place to live, and creates endowments to support future development. In essence, JCF is building a community chest to support existing organizations as well as worthy projects that aren’t already funded by a non-profit.
You can help ensure that important community causes are funded in the future by donating to JCF or by making a contribution through your estate. JCF will distribute your contribution to organizations and projects that enrich the community according to your preferences, whether you want to benefit the arts, sports and recreation opportunities, social services or schools, just to name a few.
Juneau is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here, and glad to be involved with organizations like Rotary and JCF. We can all make a difference, whether it’s by giving money or by volunteering for the organizations that we feel passionate about. We can make Juneau even better, now and in the future.
• George Elgee is a Board Member of the Juneau Community Foundation and a partner of Elgee Rehfeld Mertz, LLC.