Continuing the Spirit of Giving

Friday, November 30 - It’s not terribly difficult to find acts of generosity around the holidays. Or, here at JVS, at any other time of the year. The people who make up our agency “give” of themselves every day out of the year whether it’s time, money, advice or a willing ear. Thanksgiving was a week ago. Giving Tuesday, a day on which individuals are encouraged to support charities nationwide, launched earlier this week.

I recently "opened" the Huffington Post and learned that an act by a New York City Police Office  - and an accompanying photo – has gone viral. Officer Larry DePrimo, age 25 years old, came across a barefooted homeless man on a chilly New York night. He went down the street to Sketchers and bought the man a pair of insulated boots and compression socks. He apparently also offered to buy the man a cup of coffee, but the man refused.

Price tag: $75. Gesture: selfless. Worth: inestimable.

Because a tourist happened to snap a picture of the officer’s act and shared it, the photo has gone viral, more than 47,000 shares. NYPD’s Facebook page has over 260,000 new likes.

As well it should. Who wouldn’t “like” this kind of generosity?

Per the HuffPost, the officer understood that he was doing a favor for his fellow man. “He smiled from ear to ear," DePrimo is quoted in the article. "It was like you gave him a million dollars."

DePrimo’s next comment is even more telling: “I didn't think anything of it."

Not surprising. People who are this kind of selfless rarely do.

We have many people just like this at JVS.  These are people who donate tens of thousands of dollars to the agency after year, helping needy students with JVS scholarships; supporting our training programs and donating toys and gifts for client families with children. These generous donors make life just a little easier for those who are struggling in this volatile economy and unstable job market.

Many of these people don’t want attention or any kind of recognition. If asked why they give, they would say because it’s the right thing to do. “Because that’s how I was brought up,” “because there’s a need.”

I thought about the idea of “giving” as I learned about a pair of sisters, each of whom will receive new smiles – and, hopefully, new lives – thanks to the generosity of JVS benefactor Dr. Mark Katz as well as the collaborative efforts of JVS Grant Coordinator Joyce Cele, BankWork$ case manager Maria Zuniga and the Change A Life Foundation. Dr. Katz has worked  with JVS providing thousands of dollars worth of dental work to improve the all-important personal and professional appearance of two women who had never seen a dentist growing up and who now require an enormous amount of restorative and cosmetic treatment.

Through the Change a Life Foundation, each sister was awarded a $5,000 grant for dental work. The cost of treatment - surgery, extractions, root canals, fillings and more -  far exceeds the $5,000 grant award.  But as with previous JVS clients, Dr. Katz and his colleagues will provide the services not covered by the grant free of charge – a “philanthropic discount”.

Dr. Mark Katz, continues in the charitable footsteps of his father, Dr. Sanford Katz, by providing thousands of dollars worth of dental work to improve the all-important personal and professional appearance of JVS clients. Many of our clients come from difficult domestic situations and have overcome hardships and challenges to improve their lives and train for careers that will lead to a better quality of life for them and their families.

I have no idea what a 25-year-old NYPD Detective earns or how much a $75 purchase of boots and socks makes a dent in his budget. There can be no balancing, comparing or cross-measuring the generosity of a Larry DePrimo with a Dr. Mark Katz or even with a person who gives millions of dollars to endow a university’s library.

People give because they “don’t think anything of it.”

Perhaps this is something all the rest of us should be thinking about.