Philanthropy and Belonging in the time of COVID

The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ and like us on Facebook.

In the era of COVID, we have all faced many changes and challenges that have confronted what it means to belong.

When we think of community, it usually centers around the feeling that we belong to a group of people. As a relative newcomer to Homer myself, I have been asked by other newcomers how to become integrated. My answer is broadly echoed by those who have lived here for so long: Get involved!

We cannot hope to feel a sense of pride, ownership, or connection if we are not building relationships and improving each other’s lives. Whether it is through a local non-profit, your church, or a hobby group, just being involved has a dramatic impact on our mental health, social lives, and overall sense of belonging.

The global pandemic has certainly offered us barriers in a way that changes how we can be together, how we connect, how we communicate. So many are feeling spread thin, and in this process, we are evaluating what capacity we have for activities and reprioritizing our social needs.

As we determine what activities will get our time and energy, it has become clearer how little so many of us feel we have of either. Time and energy are indeed the resources we consider the most valuable, and when it comes to how we spend them, it’s only natural to prioritize our time with loved ones over participating in community activities.

It means we have to consciously focus our attention on our social groups, charitable causes, and each other in order to maintain the feeling of community and belonging. Identify that one cause that you feel strongly about and ask how you can be of help or if there is a need for volunteers. Check with your neighbor who has been feeling isolated and ask them how they are doing.

Likewise when we are short on time and energy, help out your community in the second-best way: A donation of your dollars. Please remember the role of philanthropy in the process of healing, of staying strong as a community, and reinforcing all those programs and organizations who work to support our wellbeing. Every dollar helps even more than it did in years past, helping to sustain organizations and services that may struggle without the ability to organize in-person fundraisers or traditional outreach.

It can be hard to feel like organizations are asking for money in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling connected right now, and sometimes feels transactional, but ask yourself this: How much is my time and energy worth to me right now? For the volunteers who show up and the community organizers who ensure people stay in contact, even a small-dollar donation goes a long way to ensure programs can keep running long into the future.

There will be a time when we look back on our pandemic days and laugh together, cry together, and wonder how we did it. We are doing this together, and it’s with your support today that our children will have active, healthy communities to grow up in. As an old Indian proverb goes, “Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will never sit.” I think about this a lot when I lose track of time or focus.

This is our time to plant seeds for trees that we will never rest under. Our hardships today can be opportunities for tomorrow. Get involved, love your neighbors, volunteer. And of course, please give generously today to an organization that nourishes our community. Your participation builds the most important driver of society: Belonging.

– Jeffrey Eide is the new Executive Director of the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation, a newly created position. His background is in fundraising and community organizing.