Thanksgiving is a traditional time to both give thanks and to give to others. Building on that sentiment, GivingTuesday was created in 2012 to encourage people to do good and give generously on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The idea took off. Even last year, amid the many financial stresses of the pandemic, GivingTuesday prompted 34.8 million people to donate a total of $2.47 billion to nonprofits across the US—a 29% increase over 2019.
We hope to see those numbers continue to grow, and we’re doing our part by giving generously in honor of our Leisure client family. This year, we’re directing our donations to organizations selected by Barb Salamoff and Avery Wenck.
When Barb was given the opportunity to choose one of this year’s charitable beneficiaries, she was a little overwhelmed. “There were so many wonderful causes to consider… I wished we could give to them all,” says Barb. To narrow down the options, she homed in on two groups that are close to her heart: rescue dogs and veterans. She was thrilled to find an organization that helps both in a unique and powerful way.
100% of the efforts of K9s for Warriors are dedicated to saving the lives of both veterans and rescue dogs, with the goal of supporting veterans who suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST). Selected veterans are paired with a K9, almost all of which are rescues from shelters or surrendered by their owners, and they complete a Service Dog training program together. Each veteran/K9 pair who graduates from the program represents two lives saved, the Service Dog and the Warrior, enabling them to live a more fulfilling life. Many have reunited with their families, gone back to school, found renewed enjoyment in life, and significantly reduced their medications.
Any dogs that don’t graduate from the program automatically qualify for a “career change,” either as adopted pets in loving homes or as participants in the K9FW Station Dog Program which helps dispatch operators, first responders, and police officers mitigate stress.
For Barb, choosing K9s for Warriors was very personal. Her brother was in the Navy, and her son is interested in pursuing a career in the Air Force. K9s for Warriors brought together her desire to support veterans and her passion for saving the lives of rescue dogs. Barb and her family adopted a rescue dog 3 years ago—a pit bull mix puppy. They quickly fell in love with the dog and the breed. When they decided to adopt again last December, they specifically chose an older pit bull who, due to its age and the negative perception of the breed, was less likely to find a loving home. “Dogs and veterans can both tend to be forgotten,” says Barb. “K9s for Warriors serves them all in a very special way. Choosing where to give wasn’t easy, but K9s for Warriors tugged at my heart.” To learn more or to donate, visit the organization’s website here.
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Avery Wenck was often involved in philanthropic activities, first as a student at a Jesuit high school, and then in college. But after graduating and making the move to Southern California, “school was no longer putting those opportunities in front of me, so philanthropy seemed to fall by the wayside.” That all changed when a client introduced him to KidWorksOC, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that focuses on helping local children and their families gain access to the academic, social, and emotional resources they need to live a happy, healthy life.
During the holidays, the group collects donations of toys, and then hosts a store where parents have the opportunity to buy gifts for their kids—for just 10% of the price in stores. “The parents take pride in being able to shop for their kids and being responsible for putting a gift under the tree at Christmas,” says Avery. “It’s a unique way to help remove economic barriers and empower parents to provide their kids some holiday childlike joy. Over the course of the toy drive, we don’t get to have conversations with every family, but that doesn’t keep them from communicating their appreciation; even just their expressions are truly gratifying as a volunteer.”
Other programs at KidWorksOC operate year-round. In normal times, the organization runs a low/no-cost preschool, after-school programs for older students, and a variety of tutoring and mentoring programs. Avery was a founding member of the group’s Young Professionals Committee in 2019. Since then, he’s watched the group grow from a small handful to nearly 20. The pandemic presented a new way for the group to help. “When the kids were stuck at home during COVID—often in a small apartment with multiple families living together—we banded together to assemble desks and deliver them to their homes. It was one of the few ways we could help during lockdown, but it made a difference.”
Two years ago, Avery and other team members volunteered at the holiday store, wrapping the purchased gifts for the parents. Though the pandemic halted the activity last year, the store will be open again on December 14, and KidWorksOC is asking for toy donations. If you would like to donate, feel free to drop a toy off at our office any day before December 13. If you would prefer to give money, KidsWorksOC is offering a dollar-for-dollar match for monetary donations through December 31. We’re happy to know that our donation will have double the impact! Click here to go directly to the donations page.
At Thanksgiving and all year long, we hope you will join us in doing what we can to help those who need it most and to support causes that truly make our world a better place. From all of us at Leisure Capital Management, thank you for your continued trust and confidence throughout the year. We wish you a beautiful and healthy holiday.
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