This column is a continuing series by Chef Peter X. Kelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group which runs every Thursday.
CONGERS, N.Y. -- Last week I was honored to give the keynote address at the Annual Governors Conference on Volunteerism. Nearly 1,000 attendees, all of whom all work for non-profits, participated in round table discussions and workshops aimed at helping non-profits reach their goals. These extraordinary individuals bring much needed assistance to neighbors in our communities.
Martin Luther King once said that “life’s most persistent question is “what are you doing for others.”
It is the answer to that question that is the measure of a man.
I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many of the organizations that make up the non- profit world and it is the tireless efforts of the individuals who run these organizations that make life just a little kinder to those around us.
Philanthropy comes in many forms and few of us can do what the Rockefeller's, Fords, Carnegie's or the Gates and Buffet's can do… but we can all do something to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate than us.
Philanthropy is not solely measured in dollars; it is also measured in time. Time spent with the elderly, time taken to tutor a student, time used cooking a hot meal for the hungry, time allocated to helping an organization achieve its goals. Funds are a necessary component but time our greatest commodity is essential to philanthropy.
John Kennedy once said “To those whom much is given, much is expected.”
Table to Table, a food rescue operation based in Bergen County, works with restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and individuals to retrieve foods that would otherwise wind up in landfills. These foods are then distributed through Table to Table trucks to shelters and have provided millions and millions of meals to hungry families throughout New Jersey.
My involvement with Table to Table began more than 20 years ago with a simple phone call from the founder, Claire Insalata Poulos, asking for my help creating a special dinner where guests would support their cause.
It was a natural -- restaurants and chefs helping to feed the hungry.
I believe in the goodness of spirit that is in all of us but it is in the pairing of individuals and businesses that are particularly drawn to a cause because they can relate to the problem that creates the most impact. Pet lovers to the ASPCA, conservationists to environmental causes, survivors to cancer research, teachers to educational foundations and chefs to hunger relief.
There is no shortage of good causes but of course there are limits to what any single individual can commit to.
As the non-profit community looks for not only donors but for volunteerism it must look to the people who will be most motivated to work for their cause.
We all want to give back to our communities but most people are searching for the cause that will bring them the most happiness in return. A cause that may honor a sibling's dream, one that soothes pain, one that guides a child, a cause that gives hope where once there was none.
The most successful organizations derive their success by pairing the individual with the cause that stirs the motivation to act.
And by sharing that help we not only enrich the lives of others – but our own as well.