Blog: Looking for a smart way to ‘give back’ this holiday season? Check out the Greater Good

The first week of November marks an increased season of giving in Fort Wayne and around the nation.

Whether individuals, families, or companies provide monetary donations or volunteer their time to the nonprofit community, there is a growing desire to give back to those in need around the holidays.

But studies show that most people who are giving back are doing it without much information on hand.

In fact, an estimated two-thirds of people who make donations do no research on the organizations they’re giving to before they cut the check. Instead, they’re simply relying on the recommendations of friends and family, as well as previous experience.

However, even if donors do their due diligence by attending galas and fundraisers, they often only get a bird's-eye view of the organization they’re giving to and the true impact it’s making in people’s lives. In other words, the stories of many local nonprofits and those who have dedicated their careers to running them are largely untold and unheard in communities.

As someone returning to Fort Wayne who wanted to make an impact here, I noticed this gap in information in our community, and I wanted a way to fix it, so I developed a platform for nonprofits to share their stories, missions, and needs called the Greater Good Fort Wayne.

The Greater Good Fort Wayne is a resource for people who want to donate to or volunteer with Fort Wayne's nonprofits.

If you’re looking to be inspired about where to give back this holiday season, let the Greater Good Fort Wayne be your guide.

In speaking to many passionate individuals in the nonprofit community over the past year, I’ve discovered that the work that we might see on the outside of a nonprofit organization is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the work being done on the inside of it.

Oftentimes, there are powerful reasons our local nonprofit leaders get up every morning and pour their lives into giving life to others. Take Melinda Lauer, Director of Communications of the Associated Churches, for example.

“Sometimes, you feel like the needs are going to outweigh you,” Lauer says, “but you keep trying.”

This year, Associated Churches is celebrating its 75th Anniversary of serving the Fort Wayne community, bringing together 7,800 volunteers from more than 134 congregations to pray, serve, and work together to help those in need—regardless of social, religious, gender, and racial backgrounds.

It does everything from providing low-income families with baby clothes and essentials to providing ministries for military families and youth. But part of the reason you don’t always hear about its work is that this organization stays humble, says Gary Pook, Director of Finance.

“Imagine it is 1944, and the United States is at war,” Pook says. “Now, it is 75 years later, and the United States is still at war, only in different ways.”

Volunteers with the Neighborhood Food Network at Associated Churches.

In 2018, Associated Churches gave 1.2 million pounds of food through its Neighborhood Food Network. This is a network of 25 food pantries in churches and social organizations filling a gap as “emergency food banks,” offering families five-day supplies of nutritious food once a month at no charge.

Even so, Lauer says some of her most empathetic experiences are those that happen outside of the office walls. These are the experiences that keep her motivated every day to do more in the Fort Wayne community.

She recalls a recent experience while out to dinner with friends. In the restaurant bathroom, a woman overheard that Lauer worked for the Associated Churches and asked if they could pray together. 

“She needed a hug and a prayer,” Lauer says. “These situations occur a lot. It’s our normal.”

It’s these ways of filling the gaps—from little expressions of love to large food programs—that inspires those who give to Associated Churches to keep the contributions coming.

“I love Associated Churches because when they see a need, they seek to fulfill it without hesitation,” says Board Member Molly Roman. “They are what they promote: a community of caring, fellowship, humility, and love.”

As the holiday season of giving approaches, there are many such organizations that are going the extra mile to serve local residents in Fort Wayne’s community.

Check out the Greater Good Fort Wayne’s website and Facebook page to learn more about events and opportunities to support these nonprofits—and to find an organization that matches your desire to make an impact.  

It’s a smart way to be an educated giver this year.