By Christina Kamkosi, EHF Program Coordinator
Spokane Mayor Condon asked, “What makes a city compassionate?” He found that Louisville, Kentucky had been recognized as one of America’s “most compassionate cities” by virtue of their commitment to volunteering in the community. Spokane Mayor David Condon knew that our citizens in Spokane were every bit as caring, so a delegation from Spokane went to Louisville to learn from their successes.
“That visit really showed us how much we have in common as caring, compassionate communities. Louisville was a little ahead of us in terms of defining its story, but the trip got us thinking about how Spokane rallies to help during large festivals, in times of need, and everywhere in between. Spokane Gives became our way to shine a light on the need for year-round giving, recognize all of the good work already being done in the community, and connect people to their passions,” said Mayor Condon.
Empire Health Foundation (EHF) invests in ideas and organizations that result in a measurably healthier region. Beyond health care, this includes a focus on the social and physical environments that promote good health for all. One attribute of healthy communities is volunteerism. Not only does it address some of the community's most pressing needs, but research also shows that it provides health benefits for the volunteers themselves.
Inspired by the Mayor's challenge, EHF joined with other partners including the City of Spokane, Spokane County United Way, Whitworth University, Spokane Teachers Credit Union and Windermere Real Estate to launch Spokane Gives. This initiative finds ways to expand the level and impact of volunteering in our community.
Spokane Gives’ first project promoted volunteering by shining a light on work already being done in Spokane. This project then grew to align with National Community Service month of April where a growing number of businesses sponsor mini grants for nonprofit organizations to buy community event supplies.
Spokane Gives has also created an online portal, www.volunteerspokane.org. This portal is managed by United Way and has volunteer opportunities all year-round. When you sign up, you get matched with needs that are of interest to you or get notifications when needs arise. The website also creates a volunteer resume for registrants and tracks the dollar value of volunteer hours which gives you an idea of your individual impact.
Four years after the "compassion challenge", we are delighted to report that the number of volunteers in our community has more than doubled. In addition, we've seen substantial growth in the number of volunteer hours and completed projects.
Since the beginning of Spokane Gives, our community has generated more than six and a half million dollars in volunteer impact. Other incredible outcomes include the adoption of the Charter of Compassion by the Spokane City Council. The Charter for Compassion, crafted by world leaders under the sponsorship of the TED Prize winner, Dr. Karen Armstrong, seeks to foster compassion, civility and positive civic engagement to communities all over the world. The Mayor has also received a national award from Voices for National Service in recognition of Spokane Gives.
We want to thank all the partners and volunteers who have made Spokane Gives a success and invite everyone to join us in the next phase of this journey. “Everyone can make a difference,” said Antony Chiang, president of the Empire Health Foundation. “Big things start with the smallest acts of compassion, generosity and kindness.” Year-round opportunities to plant your seeds of compassion are available at www.volunteerspokane.org. Click here for a video of why others participate in Spokane Gives, and join us in April as we take this initiative to a new level. Stay healthy, be bold and volunteer more!