Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 27, 2007

Pull out your calendar and your checkbook

“Paul Revere earned his living as a silversmith. But what do we remember him for? His volunteer work. All activism is volunteering in that it’s done above and beyond earning a living and deals with what people really care passionately about. Remember, no one gets paid to rebel. All revolutions start with volunteers.” ~ Author and Volunteering Expert Susan Ellis

In the 10-plus years since I’ve undertaken such a project, I’d forgotten how all-consuming putting together a charity event from scratch is. I’d also forgotten how rewarding it is.

More than a decade ago, I was the chairperson of the first walk-a-thon hosted by the Central Ohio chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom. Chapter volunteers had a paid part-time staffer and the experience of the national organization to rely on as we planned and hosted this charity event for the first time. And even with those advantages, putting together the event was a lot of hard work that resulted in a wonderful walk-a-thon to benefit a great cause.

In the ensuing years, I moved to the West Coast, dealt with a child’s life-threatening illness, and went back to work full time, among many other complicating factors in my life.

Although I still volunteered my time on a small-scale basis – our family served as a honoree family for the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training program, my husband and I helped out with Girl Scout, Cub Scout, and classroom projects, and so on – helping charitable causes gradually became more about donating money than donating time.

But thanks to Carol O’Hare, I started working with the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library on its Beyond Books Campaign. (Let me serve as an object lesson about the possible consequences of whispering a fundraising idea for one of her many charity projects – even an idea she rejects – to Carol during a City Council meeting.) The campaign’s goal is to raise money for art and equipment for the new Morgan Hill Library, currently under construction and scheduled to open this summer.

This led to my joining a subcommittee that dubbed itself the “Puzzle People” – this group was charged with throwing the inaugural Silicon Valley Puzzle Day, which was held Saturday at Ann Sobrato High School.

The Puzzle People were tirelessly led by Emily Shem-Tov. Silicon Valley Puzzle Day was her brainchild, a fundraiser and publicity generator for the Beyond Books Campaign.

Like the rest of the Puzzle People, Emily is passionate about libraries. From a family of puzzlers, including her granduncle, Eugene Sheffer, a famous syndicated crossword puzzle constructor, she’s also passionate about puzzles.

Led by Emily, the Puzzle People planned and worked for months to pull this event together. Because it was an inaugural event, we didn’t have a template to follow, save the movie “Wordplay” and some helpful tips from a couple of East Coast events. It took hundreds of hours to ensure that we thought of everything and to create the event.

We all spent whatever spare time we had on this project and the payoff began on Saturday. Silicon Valley Puzzle Day drew 22 Sudoku competitors, 28 crossword puzzle competitors, dozens of volunteers and uncounted interested observers to Sobrato High School for the first event of its kind of the West Coast.

We also drew reporters and photographers from this paper and the Mercury News, generating important publicity as the Beyond Books Campaign moves into the phase where we will appeal to the general public for financial support.

Best of all, we laid a solid foundation for an annual event that should grow and continue to benefit a fabulous cause – the Morgan Hill Library.

So, if like me, you’ve found it easier to pull out your checkbook than your calendar when it comes to helping your favorite causes, reconsider. Don’t stop offering your financial support, but why not supplement it with your time? In addition to making wonderful events like Silicon Valley Puzzle Day possible, you’ll meet interesting new people, and gain a sense of empowerment, of making a difference, of pride and personal satisfaction that cannot come from just writing a check.

“Whatever community organization, whether it’s a women’s organization, or fighting for racial justice … you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

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