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From the Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to Sophisticated Giving 2024, my favorite issue of the year. Since our first charity register was published, I have viewed these pages as an amazing opportunity to give readers a glimpse into the myriad of opportunities to engage with our not-for-profit community. With each passing year, I have endeavored to use the Editor’s letter to speak to my own life experiences with philanthropy: the receiving of it from others as a child and the giving of it as circumstances have allowed as an adult. My personal giving involves contributing treasures, time, and talents - often serving as charity auctioneer and emcee for fundraisers and galas, a gift that always gives me much more than those I am serving.

With close to two dozen events each year, my schedule generally does not allow for a lot of dialogue with committees prior to their big nights. Instead, I review the script just a few days (or even hours) before. So when I showed up to Alvis’ Evening of Light earlier this year, I had no idea that the theme was focused on the wraparound services provided to children whose families have had interactions with the justice system - particularly of a parent. The services Alvis provides to individuals and families affected by addiction, trauma, and mental health disorders are near and dear to my heart as an adult whose childhood was filled with all three.

Gathered backstage with the other presenters, and trying to follow along with the program, I flashed back to a sunny day in the late 1970s. We had moved out to the country and into a big farmhouse nestled into a small plateau on the edge of a mountain with my second stepdad, who had been a total stranger not more than eight months prior. Life seemed to me to be getting remarkably better: my mom and brother and I were no longer homeless (though we were still struggling with food insecurity) and our home was infinitely safer than the years prior when physical violence between my first stepdad and our older teenage brothers had been the daily norm. I loved my new dad - he was kind and had a way of helping my mom avoid the wild swings between elation and rage to which Ricky and I had become accustomed. My new school was small, but other kids seemed to have homes similar to mine, so I felt less isolated and different.

On this particular day, I don’t remember what I was doing - though it probably involved a book or my little sister, who was a living and breathing doll that occupied most of my waking existence. The sound of crunching gravel drew my attention, and I ran to see who was making their way up the steep drive. Visitors could be a welcome distraction when my grandparents or an aunt would arrive to whisk me away to their house for what I now know was care and concern for my well-being. This day it was the police; not a particularly unusual visitor - but not necessarily a welcome one either. My brothers and their friends were always getting into trouble, so I assumed one of them was either being returned or sought. I stayed in my room until my mom’s shouts and cries drew me to the bottom of the stairs to see what was happening. Though they had not handcuffed her, the officers were nearly dragging her to their car as my mom collapsed in their arms and resisted arrest. As she was taken away, all I could do was rush to my infant sister and hold her close. It was one of the most terrifying days of my life. I later learned that my mom had gone to jail for writing dozens of checks against a closed account. Her cries to the police as they took her away were defenses - she had written the checks to grocery and department stores, because we had no money but needed food and clothing.

Hearing my name as I was introduced by the Executive Director of Alvis jostled me back to the present moment, and I stepped onto the stage to take the mic for my portion of the evening. Impulsively, I chose to share that memory with the audience and broke down in tears as I relived it, expressing the immense gratitude I have for organizations like Alvis that help families like mine.

It is my gratitude for every individual who makes philanthropy a part of their lives that drives my willingness to vulnerably share childhood experiences that I would much rather forget. My hope is that by sharing all of the ways that every small and large act of kindness and generosity changed the life of an ordinary little Appalachian girl, I might help others to develop compassion and hope that each of us can make a difference.

Many thanks to our sponsor, the Columbus Foundation, where my family and I hold a donor advised fund that benefits from the leadership and guidance of seasoned philanthropy professionals who help us with planning and giving. To the hundreds of organizations that weave together a safety net of medical, social, cultural, and political support for our community: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the incalculable ways your efforts profit us all. And to our readers: may the spirit of giving generously overtake you and may these pages help you to find new and creative opportunities to gift yourself the experience of giving even more to an organization that touches your heart.

Amelia Jeffers

Editor in Chief


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