Community Service Spotlights
The Brighton Jones philanthropy team shares community service spotlights involving colleagues and clients, both in the United States and abroad.
Serving Underprivileged Children in Guatemala
Madison Nadeau, an advisor in our Seattle office, recently utilized her volunteer time-off benefit to spend a week with underprivileged children in Guatemala. She sat down for an interview to share highlights from her experience.
Who did you volunteer with and what is their mission?
I volunteered with Safe Passage, an organization that provides holistic education to children in Guatemala City in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty. Staff, teachers, and students show up to school each day unphased by the smell of a nearby landfill or the dangers surrounding the slums.
How did you learn about Safe Passage?
Two cousins of mine in Maine learned about the organization through their local community and became passionate about the cause. They took the initiative to gather a group of interested peers and needed chaperones; that’s where I came in alongside my aunt (and role model!)
What were your daily activities?
We spent the bulk of our days in the classroom, assisting teachers with their lesson plans or leading English reading lessons. We also helped prepare classroom material for adult programs and looked after the children during their recesses. When we weren’t in the classrooms, we were lending a hand with operational projects like painting bathrooms on campus.
What struck you the most about your time in Guatemala?
Even though the children lack opportunity and struggle daily to meet basic needs, they are some of the most joyful, compassionate, intelligent, and motivated souls I have encountered. The trip has afforded me a perspective and experience that inspires me every day.
Will you stay involved in any capacity?
Yes! With the help of Brighton Jones’ generous employee match program, I sponsor a kindergarten student and plan to return on additional service trips. Our group has also decided to support a 33-year-old staff member as he pursues a college degree in Guatemala.
Pairing Athletics With Educational Enrichment
Seattle Tennis and Education Foundation (STEF) founder Colin Plank took some time out of his day to tell us how he turned his passion into a successful service organization.
Tell us a little bit about STEF and its mission.
Seattle Tennis and Education Foundation is a non-profit I founded two years ago to inspire under-resourced kids to be active in mind and body, so they gain the confidence and skills to achieve their dreams. We teach tennis skills and provide educational enrichment to 12 elementary-age kids at Tennis Center Sand Point in Magnuson Park three afternoons a week year-round.
What made you decide to start a new organization?
There are several great Seattle organizations combining learning and sports, but none of them involved tennis. So I called the United States Tennis Association Foundation (USTAF, the non-profit arm of the USTA) and told them that I’d love to help kids through the game of tennis. The USTAF said they support National Junior Tennis and Learning chapters around the country based on a model tennis champion Arthur Ashe started 50 years ago in the Bronx.
With a generous grant from the USTAF, I was able to start STEF and I am proud to say we are the only chapter in all of Washington State.
Were you involved philanthropically before this endeavor? How?
My wife Ronit and I have always focused our charitable giving to organizations that have an impact on helping families and children, such as Doctors Without Borders, Childhaven, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Having the patience to learn to grow the organization organically. I wanted to ramp up to serve hundreds of kids a year and have a few locations. But I’ve learned that the kids and families we serve are better off if we focus on a smaller group of kids so we can spend more time listening to what they need.
What has been the biggest surprise?
Discovering that we can deliver the same caliber of tennis skills and enrichment as any club or private school because we have such dedicated staff and volunteers.
What’s your favorite part of your work?
I feel very fortunate to be able to work with great people at an organization that combines my love for tennis with the chance to have a positive impact on the life of a child.
What would you tell someone thinking about starting to engage at this level, either starting a new organization or deciding to go deeper with their time and money?
If it’s a local organization, meet with the board president and ask a lot of questions but also listen and let them tell you why they are doing the work they do and have them tell you how they know the work is impactful. If that goes well, ask to sit in on a board meeting to get a sense of how the board works and all the personalities involved.
Then you should volunteer with that organization to get a sense of what they are delivering. Lastly, and most importantly, you should meet with the executive director of the organization so you can see all the facets of the work involved and how they are benefiting the community.
With more than 1 million non-profits in the U.S. alone, figuring out who to support and where your dollars will have the most impact can feel overwhelming.
As an organization, we have volunteered 6,000 hours in 2018 and donated $300,000 to 93 organizations in which our employees and clients are involved.