It started out with one box in the corner of our dining room. Over the next ten weeks, we watched one box become three, then five and eventually assorted boxes and bags were stacked to the ceiling. Out in the garage, there were even more.
On August 30, 2021, many of us saw the images of U.S. troops and Afghanistan refugees trying to flee Kabul as the Taliban seized control. A couple days later, we learned that a good friend in the Air Force was working furiously to get many of his Afghanistan friends out and resettled in the states. About a month later, we were notified that one of the families would be resettling in Kansas City. They would be arriving with nothing, just the clothes on their backs and a few personal items. My wife and a quickly organized a group of volunteers and went to work. That’s when the boxes began to appear.
Two weeks ago, we loaded up the boxes and met with other people who had been helping establish the family of six. Over the next two hours, beds, mattresses and dressers filled the three bedrooms. The kitchen was stocked with all the basics. A dining table, couch, chair and TV completed the living area. Cash donations were made to purchase a laptop and pay for the first six months of rent. Outside, my two boys laughed and played soccer with the family’s children, who spoke just a few words of English. Inside, the adults made friends. Out of nothing, now, the family had a home and community—half a world away from all they left behind.
As a fundraising consultant, I have the fortune to work on big, exciting, capital campaigns that raise millions of dollars to build and renovate buildings that serve people and create community. These large-scale projects often get attention when we talk about the power of philanthropy. But as I watched the apartment fill up, I realized that what we were accomplishing was much like the final stages of a capital campaign.
By working together, a need was identified, a cabinet of volunteers was created, a compelling case for the need was made, donations were accepted, a home was established and a community was strengthened. It reminded me that no matter the size of the project, the process is the same, and the impact is worth it.
To complete the process, a simple, heartfelt, yet impactful “thank you” from the family—donor recognition—was demonstrated. A family, just arriving in a new country, instinctively exemplified the highest ideals of donor appreciation: genuine, personalized and meaningful. Given along with their note of thanks was a handmade dress for our six-month-old daughter—a gift we will never forget, and a full-circle example of the power of philanthropy.