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Local View: Celebrate philanthropy, doing good

When we hear "philanthropy," several images may come to mind. It's that annual gala dinner/dance and auction with elegantly dressed women and men sipping wine while donating to a worthy cause. Isn't it? It's the well-known business leader who gives millions to fight homelessness. Isn't it? It's that big Fortune 500 corporation that underwrites the walk to cure cancer. Isn't it?

Well, yes, it is — and more.

Have you ever thrown some change into the collection can when your local marching band bagged your groceries? Have you ever bagged groceries for your local marching band? That is philanthropy. Have you seen the neighborhood kids with their lemonade stand raising a few dollars for the animal shelter? That is philanthropy.

Philanthropy is the single mother of four (all under 8 years old) who finds a friend to watch her kids so she can spend two hours at the food shelf. Philanthropy is the family that sold their BMW to buy a used VW so they could make a bigger pledge to their favorite charity than they ever thought they could.

The ancient Greeks had a name for doing good: "philanthropy," or "love for humankind." Doing good is nothing new. It is as old as humankind. We may feel we need to do more good, especially in these divisive times. This feeling is very human indeed — and perhaps as much a part of our human nature as the need for shelter, warmth, and food.

Philanthropy is about freely giving. Philanthropy is you and me giving of our treasure, our time, and our talent. Philanthropy is the voluntary action we take for a better world.

We may find that taking action "feels darn good!" Most people like being good, doing good, and seeing good things done.

This evening the Depot Foundation welcomes many friends of the arts, culture, and history of our region for a celebration of philanthropy. The annual Circle of Friends Celebration will recognize those philanthropists, volunteers, arts-makers, and individuals who have made lasting contributions to our communities. Appreciation goes out to all of them on behalf of the Depot Foundation board of directors and all the arts, cultural, and historical organizations that call the Depot home.

Robert Hofmann is chairman of the Depot Foundation in Duluth.