Can it be January 2021? For those of you who know me, know I love seasons. Whether winter, spring, summer or fall, each has special characteristics and there is no time better than the present to snuggle in and reflect on the previous year. It is through this process, the lessons, the moments, the struggles, the victories that help make a game plan for the new year. Here are my reflections and predications for the local state of philanthropy.

Despite a global pandemic, that included layoffs, quarantine and truly unprecedented times Otsego County continued the tradition of extreme generosity. It seems that not even COVID-19 can stop philanthropists (those who share their time, talent and/or treasure) and in fact the roller coaster ride of 2020 seemed to invite new opportunities for giving back. In each area of philanthropy people rose to the occasion and shared in new ways. Staff from both Johannesburg Lewiston and Gaylord Community schools shared more than 725 hours helping to distribute food to the community from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan food trucks. This is in addition to the 7500 hours tracked for distributing meals to students. Individuals and groups with sewing talents stitched thousands of masks and donated to the hospital, schools and other organizations. While the OCF has administered plenty of campaigns for endowments and special projects, the COVID-19 Response Fund was our first experience with an emergency fund. To date $136,000 has been contributed to the fund and $110,000 has been redistributed in the form of grants for COVID relief. This is just a snippet of the philanthropy in action last year.

As we gear up for a new year what gifts do you want to share with our local nonprofits? Have you considered serving on a board or committee? If there is a particular organization you love and you have the time to share I encourage you to reach out and see if there are any openings. I have heard of several organizations looking for volunteers at all levels. Do you have unique talents like writing or photography? One of the biggest challenges nonprofits have is telling their story, perhaps you have a gift that could help spread the word. This could be as simple as committing to posts on social media. While charitable giving is often on our minds at the end of the year, consider starting this year off with a recurring monthly contribution to support your favorite organization. COVID-19 has proven to be a marathon, not a sprint and nonprofit organizations will be relying on the generosity of donors for the foreseeable future to stay afloat and serve the people who need their programs. Setting up a monthly $25 gift will total $300 by year end.

I am certain there will be many opportunities to share time, talent and treasure in the upcoming year and we promise to keep you in the know as they arise. Your past generosity has not only kept the OCF going, but been a source of support for the whole community. When I have moments of being overwhelmed I am anchored by the words “together we can do so much for the community we love.”

We may be masked and six feet apart or connected virtually, but here’s to together in 2021!!!

With gratitude,

Dana Bensinger