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The Art of Giving Back 


Philanthropy not only helps others — it also brings more happiness to your own life. 

BusinessDec2015It’s easy to get caught up in your own life. We all have responsibilities, and we all have little problems that pop up and slow down our day-to-day life. We may even feel sorry for ourselves from time to time; maybe the car got a flat tire, maybe Starbucks was out of soy milk this morning. If you take a step back from your own life and look around, you will see that you have a lot to be grateful for. Moreover, you will realize that there are many people much less fortunate than you. Give back to your community. Help those around you and anyone in need of a helping hand. Helping others helps you — people who give back live happier, more satisfying lives. Citizens of Utah, for example, rank No. 1 in the nation for philanthropy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and No. 8 on the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.

In fact, nearly every state that ranks high in charitable activity also ranks high in happiness and well-being. There are countless ways to improve the lives of others, but here are four organization that do a phenomenal job of helping individuals rise above adversity.

In September, I was fortunate enough to interview Frank Shankwitz, co-founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation. Frank has an amazing story; in 1980, as an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, Shankwitz helped a seven-year-old boy realize his dream of being a police officer. Shankwitz, along with his wife and fellow officers, founded Make-A-Wish Foundation later that year. Now the organization has an international reach and grants a wish every 37 minutes! No child should have to bear the burden of life-threatening or terminal illness; treatment processes are arduous, and, what’s more, children are deprived of the joys of youth. Shankwitz found a way to help thousands of children in this very situation. He is a model of charity. Prior to Make-A-Wish Foundation, Shankwitz coached for the Special Olympics; following the inception of Make-A-Wish Foundation, he transitioned into the full-time role of president and CEO of the foundation, whole-heartedly dedicating himself to the cause. Today, Shankwitz is still an ambassador for the foundation, helping children across the country find happiness through the adversity of illness.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting Eric Trump on multiple occasions. His foundation, The Eric Trump Foundation, is another glowing example of the power of giving back. The foundation is one of the most efficient in the world, spending nearly 100 percent of funds on children battling life-threatening illnesses at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Additionally, the foundation is made up entirely of volunteers — so every penny goes toward helping children. New Orleans is also home to many great organizations, but I want to look at two in particular.

Bridge House|Grace House is a group that provides gender-specific drug and alcohol rehab for the New Orleans community. Addiction can destroy a person’s life with the same brutal force as a terminal illness. Bridge House|Grace House seeks to offer affordable, and often free, rehabilitation to those suffering. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Bridge House and Grace House were separate organizations, focusing on men and women respectively. In 2006, the groups joined forces to provide top-level services to our community.

Founded by New Orleanian attorney and CPA Chris Beary, Grace at the Greenlight aims to help New Orleans’ homeless population meet their basic needs, as well as reconnect with family across the country. New Orleans’ population sits around 370,000, and 7,000 of those residents are homeless. Beary realized he could do more for those 7,000 people, and he set out to help those marginalized inhabitants. Grace at the Greenlight’s mission is to help those individuals we see every day. It is impossible to drive through our city without seeing a homeless person camped under a highway or standing out on the neutral ground.

All four organization were started by people looking to improve the lives of people around them. Let these groups be a model and inspiration for you. You don’t have to quit your job and found your own organization, but simply realize that you are in a position to give back to others. As a citizen of this city, nation and world, we are surrounded by opportunities to help others — reach out; lend a hand; both you, and the world around you, will be better for it.

The Fab Four Charities Making a Difference

Frank Shankwitz co-founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980 after making a dying boy’s dream come true. Frank has dedicated the past 35 years of his life to helping others and making wishes come true.

Eric Trump created a highly efficient foundation. Every year, The Eric Trump Foundation provides millions of dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help children fight life-threatening diseases.

Bridge House|Grace House focuses on drug and alcohol rehabilitation for the New Orleans community. By offering affordable, and often free, rehab programs, the organization saves countless people from a life of addiction.

Chris Beary is a lifelong resident and professional in New Orleans. He realized we could do more as a city to help empower our homeless population, and he set out to do just that. Beary founded Grace at the Greenlight to supply the homeless community with a variety of basic necessities and to connect them with family across the country.