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Several years ago, I wanted to find a way to keep in touch with friends from my old workplace, the National Security Agency. I had read about groups of people forming Giving Circles, which was a way to pool dollars going to charities. The group then got to decide together which charity they wanted to support. I decided this would give us a good reason to keep getting together.

We’re in our 9th year. To date, we have collected and donated over $20,000 to dozens of charities. We choose from tiny local efforts to international disaster relief groups. And every month we meet at one member’s house for a pot luck dinner. I get to stay in touch with friends, and we all learn about and contribute to a lot of wonderful nonprofits tackling formidable problems all over the world.

Recently, Ignition72’s Creative Director Jay Neighbours co-founded his own charity. An avid biker, he and his friends collect unwanted bikes, refurbish them, and donate them to children from needy families. The families are identified by social service agencies, who are thrilled to receive them. Donated bikes are coming in from all over – sometimes more than they can manage.

Research tells us that charitable giving actually makes us happier than spending on ourselves, and can also make us healthier. For Jay, he remembers how much he loved the sense of freedom and fun that bike-riding gave him; he wants all kids to experience that. I think for me, perhaps I have reached a place where the need to do something for other people is compelling. I have had a fortunate life, and gladly give what I can.

Our company gives too: right now we’re collecting computers and printers to donate to Hampden Elementary School. Maybe making this a habit (donating when we can, any time of the year, to causes that are important to us) will make all of us healthier and happier in the long run.

Kris Appel

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