Having a true connection to philanthropy
Published 4/15/2018 in The Maryland Daily Record
For as long as I can remember, my family volunteered together with various organizations in our community in Providence, Rhode Island, where I grew up. The memory that stands out the most is on Thanksgiving Day, when my brother, father and I would work in the kitchen of a local church preparing the meal for those without homes or families to eat with.
When I reached high school, I began volunteering at a local safe house shelter for women who were victims of domestic violence. This shelter created a safe haven for women and their children as they planned out their next steps to a safe and more stable environment. My role was to play with the children while the women attended group therapy sessions. It was an experience that has always stayed with me and one that has informed much of my volunteer interests over time.
When I lived in Chicago I became very active with an organization that was working alongside the goals set by the mayor at the time to eradicate homelessness around the city. While it was clearly an ambitious goal, we worked closely with women who were striving to attain independent long-term housing. I learned so much about the complexity of homelessness. I was also involved with the establishment of the first ever endowment for this 60-year-old organization. Our team had the benefit of working with SCORE (score.org) volunteers, who lent tremendous expertise in helping us define the purpose and build out the implementation of a new endowment campaign. This was a huge learning experience.
In New York I spent time working on the 2008 presidential campaign. This was an experience of a lifetime for so many reasons. I canvassed, made phone calls and ran a voter check-in table on Election Day. There was an atmosphere of such camaraderie and patriotism – it was genuinely a special time. It was interesting as a volunteer to lend my time to something with a national reach but one that didn’t necessarily benefit people who were impacted by disadvantage. I found it thrilling though not nearly as fulfilling.
A city of doers
Then I arrived in Baltimore in 2010, a city with a profound culture of philanthropy. Unlike any place I had lived before, Baltimore is built on a community of activism, giving, social entrepreneurship, real doers. People identify a problem and they actually do something about it. Whether it’s on a small or large scale, the devotion around our city of people working to solve the real issues our communities face is happening in real time.
Beyond the complex problems that these efforts look to address, we also have the benefit of world-class medicine and research in our great city. This leads me to Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Women’s Initiative Network. Kennedy Krieger is an internationally recognized institution dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system. Families uproot and travel to Baltimore to benefit from the world-class treatment that Kennedy Krieger provides, from the most critical care to the ongoing therapeutic support that people receive. We happen to have this outstanding institution in our community, yet the excellence of their research and their groundbreaking medical breakthroughs reach around the world.
I currently service as the co-president of The Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), which is a volunteer engagement and fundraising effort within Kennedy Krieger made up of a devoted group of women who care deeply about providing a warm, caring and supportive network of resources for the patient families. Over 150 women strong, WIN members will serve hot meals to families of inpatients on Tuesday nights, volunteer in the therapy room on Wednesdays during the day and hosting a variety of events geared toward raising awareness and contributions that directly fund programs and equipment.
A vision a few years ago within the WIN executive committee that has become a reality of wild success is the annual gala – Hats & Horses. Coming up on Friday May 4, the event is a Derby-themed party where everyone has an excuse to break out their big hats and bow ties. Beyond the pure fun of the evening, and it is such a blast, the fundraising results have grown in each of the three years since the event started. The goal of the event is to fund a specific program or critical purchase of equipment that may not happen without this event.
I will often say that my commitment to WIN is like an insurance policy on being blessed with a healthy child. If I’ve learned anything from all of these experiences through the years it is that having that true connection to the cause will result in the most meaningful experiences.
—Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth