When you choose to help others, you’ll help yourself

Wikipedia defines philanthropy as the “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human” on the part of both the benefactor (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and the beneficiary (by receiving the gift).  

During my life, I have lived in larger communities and it seems to me those communities had greater needs for services as they had larger populations. It would be interesting to know if Homer has more or less nonprofit organizations than other areas of the country. If I really wanted to I could even come up with a table of the “percentages of needs” by community based on population that could compare one community to another. I could then find out for certain if the rap that Homer takes for having more philanthropic organizations than other communities is true or not. 

On the positive side, if the area in and around Homer came up high on my “percentages of needs index” then individuals or causes with a need would find the greatest potential for having their needs met. On the down side, the small populace that is tasked with providing the services may be overwhelmed with sustaining the financial and volunteer needs to be successful. It would be interesting to discover if there is such a thing as a philanthropically balanced community. Perhaps in our community the Homer Foundation is a step in the right direction to balance the needs of the citizens with the organizations.

Living in Homer has opened my eyes to the many philanthropic organizations. I often think of not only the positive effect of the services provided by these organizations, but also the economic impact these organizations contribute to our community in the form of jobs and capital infusion. 

By personally getting involved, I have found my own way of thinking of the world and the way I live within this world. It has also been much easier to connect at the individual level in a smaller community.

I can think of example after example of people that I have known whose lives were positively affected because someone, or some organization cared. Recently while serving on a philanthropic committee, I noticed on a plaque in the room a quote by Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” I shared this quote at my Rotary Club the next day, as it reinforced the concept of how little we can do individually, but how much we can accomplish with our combined efforts when we are working together. 

There are incredible opportunities to connect to an organization where your specific skills and talents can be utilized and appreciated, and I promise you will be rewarded both personally and professionally. If your personal vision is to assist your fellow man, and the world in which we live (all while living in the most beautiful place in the world), then Homer is a great fit for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re here to take what is yours and to play as hard as you can until you die, you will have missed out on a positive and rewarding experience by contributing to your community. There is not one person who can say they will never need some sort of assistance from one of these many organizations, so why not take the time now to connect your life to one of these organizations. 

There are an unlimited number of organizations that your skill sets and gifts would be welcomed on an “all in” basis, or a casual basis; the decision is all yours. Be assured you will make a difference. Who knows, we may actually be living in the philanthropic capital of at least Alaska, if not the world right here in Homer. Certainly that would be an honorable distinction.

Bryan Zak is the assistant state director for the Alaska Small Business Development Center, a Homer City Council member, a board member for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Homer Senior Citizens Inc., and is a member of  the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club and the Homer United Methodist Church. Retired from the U.S. Air Force, he  is a three term past Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner and believes in using the criteria to improve organizations.