Nonprofits Tell the Best Stories

 In Blog

As a writer, there’s nothing I enjoy more than crafting a story that shows how an individual, or an organization, changed someone’s life—except maybe hearing such stories told aloud.

This susceptibility to good storytelling is what makes me a great person to have in the audience at annual fundraising events for local nonprofits. The real gift, as I see it, though, is not what I give to these worthy organizations; it’s what they give to me in terms of inspiration, motivation and a sense of what is right in our troubled world.

This past month, I was lucky to attend two such gatherings at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Massachusetts: one on March 28 for The Care Center of Holyoke and the most recent on April 5 for Girls Inc., also of Holyoke.

I have to tell you the story about what these events were like.

The Girls Inc. event was more recent and is freshest in my mind, so I’ll start there. I was invited to attend by Tim Cotz, the president and CEO at Glenmeadow in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, who is himself a Girls Inc. friend and supporter.

What struck me at this gathering was the range in age of the girls who benefit from the programs that give them everything from experience in writing poetry to IT skills. The youngest was in elementary school and the oldest speaker was a Girls Inc. alumna and a health professional.

Latitia talked about a difficult childhood in which her father was in jail and her mother was disconnected from her. As a teenager, she got connected to Girls Inc.—and as the organization says, she became strong, smart and bold.

Latitia learned creative skills and, realizing she could assign positive adjectives to herself—like “articulate”—her self-confidence began to develop and grow. She is a health professional now and has a goal to go to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.

Inspiring. Yes?

I first got involved with The Care Center when my colleague Maureen Scanlon invited me to sit at her table at an annual event about four or five years ago. I was aware this meant I would be asked to make a donation but, because this was my first such experience, I was unprepared then for the way the stories of change, hope and success would touch me.

The Care Center is a nonprofit that works with pregnant and parenting teens and their children, to inspire in them a desire for education and learning, a hunger for the humanities; 75 percent of its graduates go on to college.

At this year’s event, I was a table captain, and I gathered 11 friends of my own to come listen to the work of the center as told through the eyes of the young women and mothers whose lives are rescued by the services offered.

I should mention that Gloria Steinem was the keynote speaker this year, and she was expressive and inspiring, but she didn’t bring a tear to my eye as did the 20-something girl who had an impromptu moment of self-awareness and pride at the microphone, choking up everyone in the room.

This young lady talked about finding The Care Center when she was four months pregnant at 16 years old. She was babysitting her sister’s child all day, every day. Watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants on television, she had a moment of clarity in which she realized: This is my life, forever, if I don’t do something to improve it.

The Care Center filled her with enthusiasm for learning and education, and she realizes what a gift this is for her—and for her child—forever.

She asked that we make this same life change available to others.

Who could resist such a story?

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