Community Steps Up After Thieves Loot Toys for Tots

It’s the lowest of the low. Thieves posing as volunteers stole approximately $5,000 worth of toys from a children’s charity drive this past Monday.

It happened at the Summit County Toys for Tots in Akron, Ohio. Surveillance footage showed the thieves loading bags and boxes full of stolen goods onto waiting trucks. According to Fox 8 Cleveland, police have identified the suspects. However, they have yet to make an arrest.

“It was disheartening. Unfortunately, this happens. It is not the standard for this community,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Greer.

Traci Higgenbottom-Williams, director of the Summit County Toys for Tots program, was completely devastated when she discovered what happened.

“It tears me up because this process just doesn’t start in December,” Higgenbottom-Williams explained. “I start in January to make sure the kids get the best. I don’t give them anything I wouldn’t give my kids when they were small. So when you take from them, it hurts me. Makes me angry.

“Right now, we have over 15,000 children in Summit County and the surrounding areas. It means a lot for some of the kids. This is all they have,” she added.

But the story does have a silver lining. Shortly after the news broke, donations started pouring in by the truckload.

On Thursday, representatives from the Akron Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 dropped off their own special delivery in the hopes of making up for some of the stolen goods. Online retailer Ebay also pledged a $5,000 donation.

“I am so overwhelmed over how everyone is stepping up in the community,” Higgenbottom-Williams said. “People have been dropping off toys, checks. We’ve gotten emails about donations people are making through our Toys for Tots site. It is just outrageous.”

In the end, what began as a heartbreaking story became a heartwarming tale—just in time for the holidays.

Organizations Profiles

Philanthropic People: Rich and Nancy Kinder

Rich and Nancy Kinder
Rich and Nancy Kinder at the BBP Gala.
IMG: via The Kinder Foundation

Rich and Nancy Kinder have spent the last two decades applying the values instilled by their small-town roots toward remarkable philanthropic efforts. Both originally hailing from quiet American towns, the Kinders have called Houston home for much of their adult lives, and have also spent that time generously giving back to their city.

The husband and wife team established the Kinder Foundation in 1997 as a means to provide major gifts to public causes in their area. A family-oriented foundation, Rich and Nancy have been able to donate to worthy Houston causes with a focus on three major areas: urban green space, education, and overall quality of life. The broad vision the Kinder Foundation promotes is to help every Houston resident achieve a healthy and rewarding life.

The foundation’s mission is to:

Support Greater Houston as a model city for economic opportunity and quality of life by providing transformational grants to promote preservation and accessibility of parks and green space for healthy recreation, encouraging and improving learning opportunities for those who strive to achieve, and supporting those Community, Arts and Medical Science organizations that can be shown to favorably impact the quality of life of Houstonians.”

In short, the Kinder Foundation is focused on improving the quality of life in Houston by supporting education, the development of parks and urban green spaces, and by donating funds to health, cultural, and humanities groups. To date, the Kinder Foundation has granted more than $230 million in gifts and pledges to Houston-based organizations and worthy causes.

Some of Rich and Nancy’s most prominent donations include the funding of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, which promotes overall quality of life as well as higher education. The Kinders also funded the brand new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum as part of their commitment to supporting local education. Another example of their philanthropy is in the formation of the Kinder Emergency Center, donations to public school programs, the Texas Heart Institute, and the Houston Food Bank. Rich also serves as a life trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which has benefited from the foundation’s generous donations.

Most recently, the Kinder Foundation promised to donate $50 million to the non-profit Houston Parks Board for the Bayou Greenways Project, scheduled to be completed in 2020. This donation is part of the couple’s ongoing pledge to improve the city’s green spaces.

The Kinder Foundation’s extensive history of giving spans the areas of education, public health, the arts, and more. Rich and Nancy Kinder are models of philanthropy in their home city of Houston. For more information about the foundation and the Kinders, visit the Kinder Foundation’s official website.


Shakira’s Shaking Up Education

IMG: Gustavo Miguel Fernandes / Shutterstock

Shakira is known around the world for having one heck of a pair of lungs.  The girl can sing.  Yet, she is has also branched out into another field of work.  She has committed to deliver world-class education to the children in her native Columbia and beyond.

She employs the use of “philanthrocapitalism” which is “the practice of applying business methods to philanthropy and calling on the private sector to pick up where governments leave off.”

Shakira, having grown up in poverty-stricken Columbia, has seen it all.  She has seen how children born into destitute conditions die in the same state. They have no way to raise themselves up and overcome their birth situation.  She knew this was wrong and wanted to change things.  Shakira recognized the importance of education in order to grow new generations of empowered young people.

Further, she viewed her own success as a vehicle to promote education.  She knew she had been given some amazing opportunities in her life and wanted to pay it forward.  She saw it as her duty to invest in change.

So, she began her Barefoot Foundation and co-founded ALAS to tackle these challenges.  Through her organizations, she and Alejandro Santo Domingo, brother of Andres Santo Domingo, have built schools with community centers and a feeding program so parents want to send their kids to school.  They are currently serving more than 6,000 children.

Shakira said, “Education is an investment as well as a duty, and an integral part of a strategy that plays a vital role in figuring out how to spend every penny and making every effort count. This approach is, in my opinion, perhaps the only method to solving one of the modern world’s most pervasive problems.”

Shakira views “philanthrocapitalism” as a means to achieve lasting results.  She said she sees providing education as a way to “produce a supply of qualified workers for decades ahead, but it also creates valuable and savvy consumers. What seems on its face to be charity is actually just good business when you get down to it–because various academic studies have shown that investing in education is as solid an investment as you can make. For every dollar invested in a child’s basic education, $17 is eventually returned to the state. That’s an incredibly healthy return on investment if you ask me.”

Over the years, she has worked with some of the most influential people in education and business.  Some of those innovators include Bill Gates, Howard Buffett and Alejandro Santo Domingo.  All of these leaders hold a belief that getting the private sector involved in education can create lasting change.

To read Shakira’s entire profile, click here.

Organizations Profiles

Hopelink Reaches Those in Need

IMG: via Twitter

It may be difficult to know where to turn when you are feeling down and out.  It may seem like nobody cares or that nobody is willing to help.  However, there is a nonprofit organization that is looking out for people in need.  Hopelink does, and it works with a diverse population from children to seniors.

Every day there are thousands who are looking for jobs, food, housing or training.  Last year about 1,500 people used the job training resources.  Students who dropped out of high school went there to earn their GED. Families in crisis went there to find safety.

Since 1971, Hopelink has been a resource connecting people with the services they need to survive and thrive.  It has put food on the table, assisted in finding a parent a job or helped to heat homes over the winter.  Whatever the emergency, Hopelink has stepped in to solve the problem.

From the shores of Lake Washington to the crest of the Cascades, they have helped many people find the hope they were searching for.

For the entire profile on Hopelink, click here.

Organizations Resources

Philanthropy and Small Business

small business
IMG: via Shutterstock

Just as small businesses can greatly strengthen the local economy, so too can they have a huge impact on philanthropy in the community. Size isn’t all that matters when it comes to philanthropy, and small businesses are often passed up as potential investors because they’re perceived as too small to make a difference. But when it comes down to it, small businesses can, and should, play a vital role in community service and philanthropy.

Small businesses might not be able to donate a million dollars to a cause like a larger corporation might, but philanthropy is about more than just monetary donations. Local nonprofit organizations also need volunteers, advisors, and board members. They need people to help carry out fundraisers, find other investors, and educate the public about their cause.

One small business alone may not be able to donate much, but every community has multiple small businesses, and together they can add up to quite the contribution. Businesses also have far-reaching connections and the means to get word out, and possibly products that they can donate to events and fundraisers.

And, the more small businesses get involved, the more people will start to recognize that company as one that has the community’s best interests at heart. Studies have shown that some of the most inspiring companies today are those that care about the community, are authentic, give back, and have good values—and those companies also have more loyal, enthusiastic customers that spread the good word around.