Posts Tagged: live generously

We Asked 14 Locals How They Live Generously… and How You Can Too!

Live generoulsy, let's do this

Live generoulsy, let's do this

Live Generously

Introduction by Aryn Henning Nichols
Interviews by Aryn Henning Nichols, Kristine Jepsen, & Sara Friedl-Putnam
Originally published in the Winter 2015-16 Inspire(d)

It’s easy to look at the world, filled with problems, and get a feeling of hopelessness. You throw your hands up in the air and say, “What can I do about it?” Right?

Well, here’s something you can do: For starters, don’t perpetuate the bad; focus on the good. Then get out there and perpetuate that. Change the world, especially the one right outside your door – your community.

‘Cause here’s the deal: for every bad thing that happens in the world, we here at Inspire(d) believe there are – at least – 1000 good. Probably more. Our entire mission is to tell you about the good stuff. Especially the folks who “live generously.” And we’ll share a little secret: You’re probably one of them already.

We define those who “live generously” as people who are giving of their time, talents, goods, or money to people and organizations in need. It can be as small as helping a co-worker set up a morning meeting or as big as directing the local food pantry.

These pages feature just a handful of the generous people suggested to us, and an even smaller drop compared to the actual number of people out there in our region (and the world) doing great things in their communities. They decide what they want to support – from community theatre to city commissions to band boosters to bikes – and they make it work. The centrai element for every person here, though, was finding a cause they were passionate about, and putting their generous spirit into it.

The benefits of giving are plentiful – for the receiver, of course, but especially the giver:

1. Giving makes you happy.

Research suggests that giving – being kind, generous, and compassionate – makes us happier people, and also makes us feel like we’re part of a community. Giving helps us realize how fortunate we are in our own lives, and allows us to use our talents in a meaningful way. Plus, through giving (especially of our time), we can learn new, useful things and meet new people.

2. You’re making the world (or your part of it) better.

Every little bit helps. It’s true! Collect all your change in a jar for a month and see for yourself. Then go and donate that money! Many nonprofits are underfunded and understaffed – if every person gave a little (whether time or money), we could all benefit a lot.

3. Being kind is contagious.

Ever smiled at a stranger and they smiled back? Yeah, we thought so. The same goes for kind acts and volunteering. When you volunteer your time and other people know about it, they may get motivated to volunteer, too. Even if you only have time for a click, do it. Getting the word out makes a difference. Post something on Facebook. Tweet about it. Who knows, one of your friends might be inspired to do something that makes a huge impact. Added bonus: Research shows that communities with lots of volunteers are, statistically, better places to live, which in turn boosts volunteerism (and continues the cycle).

4. Giving is tax deductible.

Most financial donations are tax deductible, and if you have to spend money on travel or other added costs associated with the donation of your time or money, those items are usually tax deductible too.estimated hourly value of a volunteer is $22.55

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of American’s volunteered in 2014 (2015 data is not yet released). Of those volunteers, 22% were men and 28% were women. 35- to 44-year-olds were most likely to volunteer.

Driftless folks are awesome! Here’s how our three states rank for volunteerism in the US:

3rd – 36.3% residents volunteered in 2013, contributing 171.3 million hours of service

5th – 35.1% residents volunteered in 2013, contributing 163.8 million hours of service

7th – 34.7% residents volunteered in 2013, contributing 72.4 million hours of service

In each of these states, 70-75% of residents said they engage in “informal volunteering”, i.e. doing favors for neighbors.


transforming lives creating opportunity

A Path AppeA revolutionary approach to successars by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

“A unique and essential narrative about making a difference in the world — and a roadmap to becoming a conscientious global citizen.” As always, the Kristof/WuDunn team knocks it out of the park. You’ll come away inspired, for sure.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

“Focus attention and energy on making a difference in the lives of others, and success might follow as a by-product,” Adam Grant writes in Give and Take. Grant gives practical tips on making giving a part of life.


Positive change begins by taking actionKaren Trewin (pg 37) recently told us about something we think is pretty cool: “Thrivent Action Teams”. Thrivent Financial member-led projects – such as fundraisers, one-time service activities or educational events – can be sponsored by Thrivent. After identifying a need/hatching a plan, members can apply online for resources to jumpstart the project (it must be completed within 90 days). Once the project is approved, a “Thrivent Action Kit” is sent, with promo materials, t-shirts for volunteers, and a $250 “Community Impact Card” that can be used as seed money to purchase projects, supplies, and to promote the event.

To date, close to 1,000 Action Teams have been sponsored in Northeast Iowa. For example, an Action Team benefitting Decorah Youth Choirs (DYC) was held in spring 2015. The Community Impact Card was used to buy a piece of original artwork that was raffled off to benefit the DYC Scholarship Program, raising $3,000.

Visit or call the local Thrivent office at 563-382-1809 for more details.

How 14 locals give their time, talents, goods, and money

Check out Their Stories:

Want to give aid to some of the larger world issues too? Here are some great places to start:Live Generously Be Social


About the Authors:

Live Generously Authors

Live Generously: Jarrad & Laurie Walter

the WaltersCa-chunk. Ca-chunk.

It was a familiar sound in the Decorah Flat neighborhood this fall. Jarrad Walter stapled together yard sign after yard sign (on his glass patio table, until, oh, 9:30 at night) in an effort to promote Decorah Fast Fiber, a local volunteer-run campaign with the goal of creating municipal fiber-optic service for the Decorah area. The group managed to put a referendum on the November Decorah election ballot by petitioning support door-to-door, and the vote successfully passed – by a huge margin: 93 percent in favor! The city council may now create a board to oversee the fiber-optic possibility, and pursue a feasibility study.

For Jarrad, one of a handful of Fast Fiber’s early supporters, it was the least he could do. He’s been working remotely (online) for two years for a company that’s now part of Google Analytics: quality Internet connectivity is the lifeblood of his profession. “I’ve seen firsthand how actual business dollars are lost when a video sales call drops due to Internet stutter, for example. This is our chance to build a utility that will help a new generation of professionals live and work in our corner of Iowa.”

But his volunteer inclinations don’t end with the Internet, says his wife, Laurie, owner of Crave Dance Studio in Decorah. “If our kids play a sport, he’ll be coaching that Park and Rec team at some point during the year,” including soccer, t-ball, basketball, and football. “And then there’s Decorah Planning and Zoning.” After serving an interim stint on the City Council, Jarrad was appointed to the Planning and Zoning commission in 2014. “There’s nothing glorious about P and Z,” Jarrad explains, “but I truly appreciate knowing how things work in the depths of my community, and what issues affect us.”

“We moved back to Decorah from Austin, Texas – a city of a million people – where getting elected to any kind of council was an all-out political campaign,” says Jarrad, a Decorah native. Laurie hails from Randolph, Nebraska, also a smallish town. They met as Luther College students. “One criterion on our list for moving was being in a place where we could get involved in community and make a difference, beyond voting.”

In addition to Jarrad’s committee work, Laurie is a pianist with Oneota Valley Community Orchestra and the organizer of the Decorah School District’s elementary Spell-A-Thon, which raises enough money to fund the activities of the parent-teacher organization (PTO) for two years. She’s also a counselor and advocate for Camp Tahigwa, a property owned by Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois along Bear Creek, a pristine trout stream near Dorchester, Iowa.

“I’m not especially qualified to ‘lead’ any of these things,” Laurie explains, “but if the camp where my daughter has found a magical outdoor experience needs help, there’s surely something I can do.” Discussion of possible sale or closure of Camp Tahigwa has been tabled for another year, due largely to local visibility efforts.

And so it is that the Walter household might contain several-thousand paper door hangers detailing Decorah Fast Fiber’s next steps. It’s why Laurie would perhaps don a rubber thumb sleeve and count a fistful of $1 dollar bills as fast as any bank teller (PTO volunteers must count the Spell-A-Thon’s earnings by hand – usually $15,000 or more, in small bills).

“It’s not entirely altruistic,” Jarrad says. “You get engaged in volunteering due to some benefit you yourself will appreciate – like reliable Internet – and you end up benefiting the whole community. We can’t keep moving forward if we’re not involved.” – by Kristine Jepsen

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Live Generously: Liz Fox

Liz FoxLiz Fox, Decorah High School Community Club & Silver Cord Program

They have served up pancakes for Nisse Preschool, set up holiday light displays for Helping Services of Northeast Iowa, collected and sorted books for United Way, cleaned up roadsides for the Decorah Lions Club, and educated area youth about the dangers of tobacco use.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the community service performed by countless Decorah High School students over the years, according to Liz Fox, a language arts instructor who also coordinates the school’s Silver Cord program and advises its Community Club.

“In my 13-year tenure as a teacher at Decorah High School, the one thing that remains constant is the goodness of the students,” she says. “Sometimes teens get a bad rap, but these teens really are committed to serving – and improving – their community.”

It was a group of students at DHS, in fact, who first approached one of their teachers, Cam Forde, in the late 1990s to request permission to form a club focused on community service. Today that organization, the DHS Community Club, boasts more than 30 members who implement a number of annual projects – care to buy a Spirit Button, anyone? – in addition to volunteering on an as-needed basis. “The students are constantly finding new ways to pitch in and help around town,” says Liz, who succeeded Forde as Community Club adviser in 2005. “I derive a lot of satisfaction from the positive energy they bring to the community.”

Last year, after months of planning spearheaded by Principal Kim Sheppard, the high school established a recognition program, Silver Cord, to honor those students who log at least 200 hours of community service by the time they graduate. “It’s been an incredible success – we had 55 seniors perform at least 50 hours of service the first year and earn the distinction last May,” says Liz. “And thanks to the generosity of the Decorah Lions Club, which pays for the cords, the students who earned those cords got to keep them upon graduation.”

Not surprisingly, the willingness of Decorah youth to give back so readily has benefited not only the community but also the teen volunteers. “It’s truly been a win-win for all involved,” says Liz. “The community is grateful for the work the students perform, and the students are thrilled to give back to a community that supports them so deeply.”

Organizations interested in Decorah High School volunteers should contact Fox at – by Sara Friedl-Putnam

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