Guest Opinion: The power of giving

There are thousands of acts of volunteerism, civic engagement and selfless, charitable giving I have seen over my career.

Karl Samp
Karl Samp
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As we enter the season of giving, and I enter retirement, I wanted to share some reflections I have witnessed over my career on the power of giving, whether of one's time, talent or treasure, with an overriding theme of care and love.

I have watched employers give adults with disabilities a job, and dramatically changed their lives. A while back, I received a call from Bob, a plant manager at Arctic Glacier Ice, inviting me to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of two employees I had placed there in the late 1980s. One, Steve, was on his last chance before being sent back to a state hospital. He ended up retiring at Arctic Glacier after 30 years. Bob told about Steve, who was deaf and nonverbal, twice saving the company $100,000 in ice machine repairs because he felt a vibration that wasn't right and shut down the machine before it was ruined.

I've seen students from Central Lakes College partner with residents in southeast Brainerd to form a resident association, and together take ownership of their neighborhood's well-being, creating the first major clean-up day in Brainerd, form Neighborhood Watch programs, and get $1 million in rehab grants through the Brainerd Housing and Redevelopment Authroity. I've seen U.S. history students capture on video the stories of World War II veterans, some who had never told their harrowing stories, yet found it so cathartic that they called to ask if they could share more.

While at the Initiative Foundation, I witnessed hundreds of volunteers from small communities come together to create the change they wanted to see. A few examples are the Nisswa Lake Park, the merger of Pequot Lakes and Sibley Township, new farmers' markets and downtown restoration projects, community art and theater projects, and relationships built across generations that otherwise would never have happened. I've seen seniors develop meaningful relationships with volunteers who made it possible for them to stay in their own homes much longer than they otherwise might have.

At the Blandin Foundation, I experienced diverse groups of citizens come together to better utilize their broadband service, and expand access and services to those in their counties left out of the digital age. We saw projects like the Senior to Senior program where high school seniors taught senior citizens in their community to use their new iPads and iPhones to FaceTime with distant family members, access telemedicine and order groceries to be delivered. Entrepreneurs were able to start businesses in their small rural towns and sell their goods or services to customers from around the world. Students were able to connect for online classes or access world class tutorials like the Khan Academy to improve their skills.


Finally, at the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, I have seen numerous donors share their wealth with local nonprofits to change the lives of their neighbors and their communities. Families were able to stay in their homes and keep their jobs due to financial assistance to get them through a car or furnace breakdown or a medical emergency. Women and children who escaped an abusive relationship were able to be safe, start healing and get back on their feet with housing and furnishings made possible by generous donations and fantastic nonprofits. Now we see people who are experiencing homelessness have a warm place to sleep in the winter, and soon, the possibility of permanent housing made possible by generous donors working with terrific staff and volunteers.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of acts of volunteerism, civic engagement and selfless, charitable giving I have seen over my career. I encourage everyone to get involved in a way that changes lives for the better and makes our communities even better than they are. No one should ever give 'til it hurts, rather give 'til it feels great!

Karl Samp served as executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation

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