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Making philanthropy a family affair

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on December 7, 2016

Teaching Giving

In the middle of the recession, one local family decided to approach the holiday gift giving tradition in a way that felt more authentic given the economic realities of so many. Rather than exchanging gifts between adults, sisters Kristi Darzynkiewicz and Kathy Whitlow invited their growing families to put all adult gift money into a donation jar. Their kids, ages five to nine, were each given the opportunity to research and present a charity they thought was worthy of the donation.

At the beginning, the collective donation was split equally amongst the children’s charities. As the kids matured, however, they were asked to prepare and present a “pitch” so that everyone could vote on which charity should get the entire collective donation. As the years went on, the kids started adding their own money to the jar as well. They started to learn about the many dimensions of philanthropy such as the impact of donations and the difficulty in picking between very worthy choices.

Kristi told Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF), “I’m raising my kids in Truckee because I want them to breathe fresh air and live in a safe, tight-knit community. But it’s easy to get wrapped up in our quiet, beautiful life. I want them to grow up with their eyes and hearts open to those who are less fortunate than they are. I want them to know there are ways to help with either your money or your time, whether you’re five and only have pennies or 95 with a fortune.”

Finding Your Voice

When it comes to creating community change, Beth Pascalli-Hirsh recently had the opportunity to encourage her oldest daughter to find and use the power of her voice. Hannah, 13 years old, researched a controversial community project that impacted many levels of our region to decide whether she was for or against it. She then stood in front of a large meeting to advocate for what she believed.

“The power to speak in front of a large audience and the confidence that was instilled from that experience is priceless. It provides a foundation for her to continue to use her voice in the future,” Beth said.

All Year Round

When it comes to shaping a community and addressing the issues that impact all of us, it’s important to give our children the power to be more than bystanders. Through volunteering, well-researched advocacy, and intentional donations, our kids have a real choice in how their community evolves. If our children are our future, giving them the opportunity to step into a role of active participation benefits all of us.

The Riley family, owners and operators of Sears Hometown Stores in Truckee, sponsored the Give Back Tahoe Giving Guide’s Education category this year. Supporting the year-end collective giving campaign and encouraging those who love North Tahoe – Truckee to give back is part of their long term commitment to supporting our region.

As Charlie Riley told us, “My wife Nancy and I are extremely grateful for the opportunities we’ve had in education, family, and community support. We have impressed on our children, and now grandchildren, that we all need to appreciate our good fortune, and help others who have not been so lucky. We hope that others in our community join us in this endeavor through the Giving Guide and all year round.”

The Power of Collective Giving

The Give Back Tahoe Giving Guide is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving back. The printed directory features over 60 local nonprofits divided into categories and with short blurbs that describe each organization’s community impact. Each category begins with a short description that encapsulates why that area of need is so important to the vitality of the North Tahoe – Truckee region.

The simplicity of the content allows a reader to connect with nonprofits that align with their community values and vision. To learn more or to donate, all a person or family has to do is logon to the online giving portal at

Challenge Grants, which award nonprofits and their donors for extraordinary fundraising efforts, occur on certain days and in certain ways from November 29th – December 13th. They are another way to explain and understand the power of every donation, large or modest, to make a big impact. Through December 13th, every unique donation of $25 or more gets nonprofits closer to their goal of earning extra $2000, $3000, or $4000 Challenge Grants.

Donating together through may be the most rewarding part of your holiday traditions.