The Scott County Community Foundation is celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2017. During the last several weeks of the year, we are sharing stories from people who have been impacted by the efforts of our donors and volunteers. The last in the series is written by our Executive Director, Jaime Toppe.

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As we conclude our yearlong celebration of our 20th anniversary, I want to take this time to thank every one of you for being a part of this journey for our community. From the leaders who had the vision to establish the Scott County Community Foundation, to the many donors over the years who have helped grow this organization, to the volunteers who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, this has truly been a group effort to ensure our community’s needs are being addressed.

Twelve years ago I first came to the Community Foundation as an intern, finishing up my last course for college as an adult learner. I didn’t know what the word “grant” meant, and it was scary to enter a new position. I did not come from a family that taught the importance of volunteering or giving back to the community. In fact, the first volunteer opportunity that I can remember was as a young adult, recently graduated from high school. When I worked for the newspaper in Madison for several years, my employers encouraged charitable giving through payroll deduction to United Way, and they were active on nonprofit boards. I became a Big Sister in the community-based program and we welcomed this young girl as part of our family. This all nurtured the desire for me to work in the philanthropic field and I decided to go back to school with the intention of working for a nonprofit. After my internship here, the position became permanent and the rest is history!

My background has made me think about how many others may have a desire to do something for the community but may be unsure of where to start. Maybe nobody has talked to you about giving financially, and explained the importance of how your gift can make our community better. Maybe you haven’t been asked to give your time to help a nonprofit. If this is the case, I encourage you to think about what it is that you love doing…what is your passion in life….and how can you take that and do something good for the community? Do you love sports? Volunteer as a coach for the Little League. Do you have a nurturing heart? Become a CASA volunteer for abused and neglected children. Do you love wildlife and being outdoors? See how you can help the Friends of Hardy Lake with their programs. Do you have artistic talent? Work with the Arts Council to beautify our community. There are so many opportunities to give back to Scott County, both financially and through your time. At the Scott County Community Foundation, we teach our youth about philanthropy and the 3 T’s: the ongoing giving of your time, talent and treasure for the good of society. Maybe you can’t do all three of the T’s, but if every single person in our community gave just one, think about the impact that would make!

Perhaps you are already an active volunteer and donor, and if so, that is awesome! Share your stories with others so they can see your passion and become inspired to do the same. Why is it that you do what you do for that nonprofit? What makes you give to a certain organization? How are your talents being used? Most importantly, what difference do you see being made because of the efforts of you and others? Storytelling is powerful and you don’t have to be an expert to do it!

At the Scott County Community Foundation, we have been blessed by the generosity of many people over the years, and you’ve read some of their stories over the past year. Because of these donors and volunteers, over $3 million has been awarded in grants and scholarships to the community. While numbers are nice, it’s the stories we hear of the impact of those dollars that are why the Foundation truly exists. The mom who no longer has to turn down job opportunities because she didn’t have child care but now has a safe place to send her child…the second grader who is so thankful and hugs the person who gives her a sack of food so she won’t go hungry during the weekend…the adult who learned how to conquer poverty and went from no job and living with friends to a full-time job and the purchase of his own house…the financial assistance that allowed a student to pursue their dream of higher education and is the first person in their family to do so…these are just a few of the many stories we hear from our grant and scholarship recipients.

The past 20 years have provided incredible opportunities for many – whether it is to be a recipient of someone’s generosity, or to be the person that played a part in that giving, it’s a wonderful feeling to experience the goodwill of our community. On behalf of the Scott County Community Foundation Board of Directors and staff, we are honored that you have helped make a difference through giving and serving in our community, and we look forward to many more years of giving back!