Friday, September 11, 2009

Community As Partnership of Individuals, Businesses, and Organizations

Let me get on my business philanthropy soapbox for just a minute.

I just came from an annual awards breakfast for a community organization, CSA in Mountain View, CA that provides services to the homeless, the poor, seniors and the sick in our area. The statistics about the rise in need for services were shocking.

What was heartwarming to see were not only the individuals that were mentioned for their support, faith-based organizations, local organic farms, and food markets. Especially honored was a for-profit hospital, El Camino Hospital, that contributed $100,000.00 dollars towards the organization's Senior Health Services and Dr Mary Lou De Natale, who works with the volunteer nurses.

Best of all, was the guest speech given by Jose Antonio Vargas, a young Pulitzer prize winning reporter formerly of the Washington Post and now with the Huffington Post, who graduated from our local high school. He began his speech with a definition of community from Webster's as: a unified body of individuals. What struck him was that a community could be made of individuals with differences that came together for a common purpose. He recounted how the community supported him even though he was different and how he sought to focus on the subject of differences throughout his career in journalism.

A community that can support the needs of individuals involves partnerships between the various constituents of that community. This community partnership was evident for the most part. But, what was notable to me was the lack of presence of business at this event. Now, in all fairness, CSA has a wonderful partnership with and support from local restaurants in a program, Chefs Who Care, where one restaurant a month hosts a fundraiser for the organization. And when the organization put out an SOS that the food pantry was bare, the local paper, the Los Altos Town Crier, ran a front page story, which caused many businesses to put out food collection bins, and created a flood of donations from the community in general.

But the tables at this event were composed of wonderful individual supporters and other community organizations, no businesses that I could see.

"We need to inspire individuals in the community to step up to the plate," said  one of the speakers. My comment to the head of the CSA: "We need to inspire businesses as members of the community to step up to the plate." He smiled, I think with hope.

Now I can step off my soapbox.

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