…From The Desk of Jayne Battey

Heart of the Farm

Thank you note in Arabic

They come off the little bus one at a time. Jordan. Egypt. Somalia. Abu Dhabi. Israel. They shake my hand, nod and with a shy smile introduce themselves and their country. Places I’ve never traveled; places I’ve only heard about in the news—and then these are places associated overwhelmingly with anger, unrest, violence.  Today, the conversation is about education. As we stand in the California sunshine, there are only smiles and gratitude all around.

Miramar Farms was always intended to work on what we jokingly called “the Robin Hood Model”. Corporate clients would pay competitive market fare; nonprofits and budding enterprises with a strong social-good agenda would pay less—or nothing.

For the past two years, we’ve hosted about a dozen nonprofit organizations at no fee. Little did we understand what a gift it would be to meet these community leaders and advocates; what inspiration we would gain from their dedication to humanity and a better world. And from our most recent visitors from the Middle East, we gained insight we would never learn from CNN, Fox, or The Daily Show.

Community leaders come to us with a wide range of passions, and with stories that fill your heart and your eyes. They want nothing less than to change the world—or at least a small part of it. They are advocates for women entrepreneurs, for senior citizens, for children who come from families well south of the 1 percent, for people with learning and emotional challenges, for the health of the environment, for worldwide and local educational excellence. They are passionate and dedicated advocates who give their time and expertise freely, and they are far and away the most optimistic people I have ever met.

Earlier this week we hosted a group that uses horses and related outdoor activities as therapy for kids and young adults with a wide-range of mental and behavioral issues. The parent’s stories are heartbreaking, but amidst the pain there is hope. There is humor (lots of humor) and compassion in equal measure. There is an overwhelming sense of community—for both the kids and the parents—and it is clear to me they are a powerful force who will, indeed, make the world a better place.

And you too can be a part of all this.

There is an incredible amount of need in the world—in your community and around the globe. Whether or not you know it, you have something to offer. I am certain of it. It doesn’t have to be money—give your time, your talent, be a good listener, bake, sew, draft a letter, build a database, address envelopes. You’ll be amazed at how much you get back in return.And if you can give money, if you are fortunate enough to be able to do this, please give. Many of the nonprofit organizations in our own communities—yes in one of the richest regions of the world—are struggling (really struggling) to keep the lights on every day. The $100 or $1,000 or $10,000 you will never miss will make all the difference to them as they work to feed, clothe, educate and care for the people of our community.

One last note: I hear from too many people these days that they are living in isolation—even (and maybe especially) those that are “working all the time.” People hunger for community and the chance to be a part of something more than themselves.

Community is all around us–and with it comes friendship and laughter and passion and joy. You just need to show up.

Do it soon. We need you.

There are nonprofit and social service organizations around the world that need your help—as volunteers, board members and staff.  If you have a special interest, talent, or concern, your local community foundation can help you make the right connection. Or, email me and I’d be happy to help.

 Jayne Battey is also a trustee of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Please join us for a day of giving with Silicon Valley Gives on May 6, 2014.