By Tom Beck, Individual Giving and Informatics Manager
You can call Sharon a savvy and active philanthropist.
Today, she’s been working in the garden. When I asked her what she’d been doing, she answered simply, with a smile in her voice, “worm bins.” Among several volunteer gigs, Sharon works at a children’s garden in Bothell exercising her Master Gardener training to teach kids where good food comes from. She stays current as a Master Gardener with continuing education like Tilth Alliance’s Comprehensive Organic Gardening class.
She passionately believes that everyone deserves to eat well at each meal, every day.
Since learning about the food insecurity that so many of our neighbors in the Pacific Northwest face, Sharon has poured energy into helping tackle the problem. Produce grown at the garden is donated to a local food bank, making a real difference in North King County. She also volunteers with organizations that distribute meals to those in need – strategically leveraging the generosity of her employer, Medtronic, to secure grants of $500 for every 25 hours she volunteers.
For more than a decade, Sharon mentored a young woman nicknamed Pasu, who faced considerable life challenges including food and housing insecurity. When their time together ended earlier this year, Sharon felt an urge to redirect her energies into making a difference in the lives of other youth who face hardships – youth who when offered a chance to improve their own lives make the most of it. Reading about Tilth Alliance Youth Garden Works, she found a perfect philanthropic fit.
At Tilth Alliance Youth Garden Works, “crews” of teens and young adults experiencing food scarcity, housing instability, involvement with the juvenile justice system or other barriers to employment, participate in garden-based job and life-skills training. They set individual educational, financial and employment goals, and build strong relationships with peers, adult staff and volunteers.
In talking with Tilth Alliance program and fundraising staff, Sharon felt she could make a meaningful difference in the lives of crew members by funding the program’s seasonal cash bonus incentives. Her personal gift of $1,500 was matched dollar for dollar by Medtronic and in March the inaugural “Pasu’s Pantry Bonuses” were awarded to crew members who attained their individual goals, and demonstrated positive interpersonal behaviors according to community standards. The fund is meant to honor her mentee, Pasu, and the idea of a pantry seemed fitting as “a place where you go to get a little something extra.” As part of the comprehensive skills building program, these bonuses give youth more access to food in the short term, and prepare them for the next stage of their lives in the long term.
Sharon supports organizations she sees making a direct impact in people’s lives. After taking a class with Tilth Alliance, she was inspired to make her first donation to support the organization’s gardening education programs. She feels gratified in “paying it forward”. She hopes youth awarded Pasu’s Pantry bonuses will develop that same philanthropic spirit, giving back to and becoming leaders in their communities after graduating from Tilth Alliance Youth Garden Works, having benefited from others’ generosity.
“Writing a check is good,” Sharon declares, “but developing a personal connection is even better.” Through her donations and volunteerism, Sharon is able to make connections with people whose lives are changed for the better. Sharon is looking forward to attending the Tilth Alliance Youth Garden Works graduation in June and plans to generously fund Pasu’s Pantry each year, and to include a match from Medtronic.