DeeAnne Everson with United Way of Jackson County understands that giving is personal. "You see kids who are deeply moved by stories that happen to kids they know or a disaster and they know they have to do something." Everson gives the kids in her personal community real-life experience to learn about giving. Every Christmas, the children who are at least 5 years old receive a blank check for $25 to give to the charity of their choice.
Giving has become a way of life for Everson's circle of family and friends. "One niece went to a school for homeless kids and for months after she and her mom took bags of clothes down there; she's still doing it," notes Everson. "One gave to Relay for Life. She didn't know why and the next year one of the kids in her class got cancer. Now she grows her hair so she can cut it off and give it to Locks of Love."
There are lots of sparrows around Southern Oregon, some right here in Medford. Sparrows are kids with terminal diseases or chronic disabilities who are adopted by Sparrow Clubs.
Based in schools and youth groups, Sparrow Clubs are made up of kids who pledge up to 256 hours of community service, earning $10 per hour of service for their adopted sparrow. Local business partners pledge to fund the service projects. "It can be anything from raking leaves on a neighbor's lawn to picking up trash at a park, or doing a canned food drive," explains Matt Sampson, regional director of the Medford area Sparrow Clubs. "They [the kids in Sparrow Clubs] have to go out and do something for somebody else that they're not required to do."
"A Sparrow Club gives a very easy entry way into the world of service and to stoke the fires of compassion in the hearts of kids," Sampson says.
To find a sparrow in your neighborhood or to learn how to set up a Sparrow Club, visit www.sparrowclubs.org or call the Medford office at 541-621-1126.
"That's the thing about hooking people up with what they care about," Everson says. "It allows them to go 'Wow! I did this!'"
Everson thinks that some people are born with a "do-something gene," and others learn along the way. "You learn from your parents, your neighborhood, the media," Everson says. "Tell your kids what you do. Be open and engaging about where you volunteer, where you give money," she urges. "Tell your kids that you're making these choices and tell them why."
Medford Rotarian Angelica Ruppe has taken her kids along with her on service projects for as long as they can remember and there have been lots of them: fund raisers to buy a hospital van, organizing the annual Multicultural Fair, food banks and more. "I'm a firm believer in giving back to the community," says Angelica. At first, Angelica's kids told her, "Oh mom, what are you doing!" and I said "Look and look!" Now after a lifetime of volunteerism, her kids have figured it out for themselves. "It's fun actually," says 13-year-old Monica. "I like doing things that help others."
Like many people, Carson's mom, Diane Bennett, was raised in a family culture of giving and is glad to see that her son carries on the tradition. "Getting awareness, just saying there's more than this little bubble here, our home and space," she says. "Part of building that altruism is kids getting out to see that there's other humans in this world, not just pixilated images."