LETTER FROM THE EDITOR, Sophisticated Giving 2021
For the past five years, my holiday season has started with the release of Sophisticated Giving - one of my favorite projects each year. In each editor’s letter for the annual Charity Register, I’ve acknowledged how the generosity of others truly sustained my family through extreme poverty in rural West Virginia, and that it has inspired me to give as much as I can to those doing the same work in central Ohio. The health and human services organizations who provided food, clothing, medical and dental care, and finances for housing and utilities impacted my siblings and me in very tangible ways - (mostly) protecting us from hunger, homelessness and illness.
Some of my family still lives the same way today. Often I am asked, “how did you escape your circumstances?” Believe me, I have asked myself the same question many times. Definitely my “way out” of generational poverty was education, but to suggest that I somehow worked hard enough to “boot-strap” my academic success would be to demean the efforts of innumerable programs and people who have worked intentionally to provide opportunities to children like me around the world. These people and programs look beyond meeting basic human needs to nurture the human spirit, cultivating the game-changing characteristics of imagination, curiosity, and perspective that bring hope into hopeless situations.
For me, that spark was ignited by Head Start, which offered me a loving teacher, healthy lunch, and escape from the chaos of a drug and alcohol-filled home. That firm foundation was invaluable during a brief time of homelessness in first and second grades, when I bounced around a handful of schools with not a lot of time to adjust in between. In third grade, I landed at Sardis Elementary, the poorest school in my district, housed in an abandoned high school. Nearly 100% of the students were on free or reduced lunch, and every teacher was responsible to teach two grades at once. To my great fortune, my third grade teacher recognized my ability and enthusiasm to learn and recommended me to the county gifted and talented program.
That simple action changed the course of my life, and when I examine the next 10 years of my education, one thing becomes clear: nothing impacted me more than the exposure I received to the arts and culture as a result of state and private funding provided to the gifted program. The opportunities afforded to me and other kids still astound me: the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982 where I tasted kiwi for the first time and saw ancient Egyptian artifacts in person; studying architecture in 6th grade and visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; 42nd Street on Broadway; the Met and MOMA; the Smithsonian and Washington D.C. more times than I can count. With every trip to a museum or historical landmark, my world (and dreams) got a little bigger. Maybe you can relate.
The 2021 issue of Sophisticated Giving comes to you during one of the most challenging climates many of us have ever experienced, and arguably no other sector of our community has been hit harder than the arts. Columbus has enjoyed a rich arts infrastructure for decades: a professional ballet company, the opera, symphonies, museums, historical theaters, a world-class science center, and nature conservancies. While I would never suggest abandoning support of basic needs like (mental and physical) health, housing, and nutrition, I would encourage you to also remember organizations that use the common ground of creative expression to minister to the spirit of hope so greatly needed today.
It goes without saying that my team and I are deeply grateful to our presenting sponsor, the Columbus Foundation, for their leadership and vision for our community. A highlight for me in 2020 was fulfilling the goal of launching a Donor Advised Fund for my family through the Foundation - something I strongly recommend for managing and expanding your philanthropic interests. Additional notes of thanks go to our community partner, the Easton Community Foundation and the tireless folks at the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Finally, a note on the photos you will see: many nonprofits expressed concern that readers may be bothered by seeing photos of individuals without masks. Rest assured, maskless photos are reflective of pre-COVID times and not indicative of a lack of responsible efforts.
Best wishes to you and yours in the coming year, and thank you for welcoming us into your homes. Your continued interest in Sophisticated Living helps to make our Charity Register possible.
Amelia Jeffers is the Editor-in-Chief of Sophisticated Living Columbus, as well as a passionate fine arts and antiques professional, licensed Realtor, and mother.
Complimentary copies of Sophisticated Giving Columbus are available by request. Simply contact a member of our team. You can read the 2021 Charity Register as an e-book here: 2021 Sophisticated Giving Charity Register.