In times like these, the spirit of philanthropy prevails—and is needed more than ever.
There was a time that the word “philanthropist” for me summoned huge foundations, the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates. I’ve since learned philanthropy takes a lot of different forms.
One such form is Monterey County Gives!, an annual fundraising initiative by Monterey County Weekly, the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation that this year invites people to contribute to 162 local nonprofits, in any amount $5 or more. I see it as sort of a democratizing force, a way for small-time donors to participate alongside big-time donors, supporting the nonprofits whose missions align with their own priorities.
For this week’s cover story, I spoke to a few local philanthropists who come from hardscrabble upbringings, finding and seizing upon opportunity along the way, and now their giving reflects their goal to help young people find similar opportunities in their education and early professional life.
Allen Fuhs is a retired rocket scientist who taught for 21 years at NPS and served as an adviser on space to former Vice President Dan Quayle. “I blundered into a career,” he says—maybe not the trajectory you’d expect from a rocket scientist. (He started out pumping gas and fixing cars at age 15, and because of his interest in cars he pursued mechanical engineering—it was a scholarship opportunity that prompted him to switch to aerospace engineering.)
Marti Diamond got her first job at the age of 12, and basically never stopped working, learning from her mistakes along the way. She went on to become a luxury yacht designer, renting out boats for weddings and corporate events, and in 2017 sold her boat the California Spirit to Giants Enterprises, the entity that works alongside the San Francisco Giants on events at and near Oracle Park, and continues to serve as a maritime consultant.
These are rags-to-riches stories of people who have humbly fought to succeed, then turned around to share that success in the form of charitable giving.
In some ways, our reliance on philanthropic giving can feel like proof of big cracks in the system—essential needs like food and housing, music and arts training for kids, mental health care and physical health care are often met thanks only to the generosity of individuals.
That reliance on philanthropy only makes it that much more important to give, in whatever amount we are able. With charitable dollars, we can direct nonprofits to help create the community we want to live in. Nonprofits are on the frontlines of this pandemic, delivering essential services to people who are most affected by the coronavirus and the associated economic fallout. They are also making our community a richer place, with arts and music and recreation.
The scope of work represented in MCGives! is breathtaking, and I invite all of our readers to participate by supporting the missions that most matter to you.
-Sara Rubin, editor, email@example.com