Empowering Gardens receives $36K donation

Opinion: Letters to the editor

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Giving Tuesday took on a whole new meaning for the OPRF High School class of 1968 this year.

We worked hard to keep down the costs of our 50th reunion in October, while also reaching out to classmates to help with expenses for other classmates who didn't have it in their budget to attend. Due to the generosity of 70 donors, we helped some with airfare, some with room costs and 27 tickets/dinner costs at the 19th Century Club. 

We had made it known that if there was money left, we would donate it to the OPRF Alumni Association and to the Forest Park-based Empowering Gardens.

After paying all of the bills, we were left with some nice funds.

One donor gave us $1,000 specifically related to what we were doing in honoring veterans, especially Vietnam Veterans who were not appreciated upon their return from the war. We divided that donation between two recipients, the Daughters of the American Revolution Jean Cardinelli Chapter in Iowa, which supplied us with all of the Vietnam packets, and the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans in which at least one of our vets is involved. The DAR chapter has given out over 12,000 of the packets since 2012 with a note from the President, a pin, high-quality paper describing each of the symbols on the pin, and a banner to put in the window of their car or their home saying they served.

We then wrote a check to the OPRF Alumni Association for $1,000 because they always help us with our reunions as they do others. 

Our goal then became to help our classmates, Dick Biggins and Maggie Miles and their partner Ana, with their nonprofit enterprise, Empowering Gardens. They opened the doors 2½ years ago specifically to hire and train the disabled. As with any new venture, it takes time and money to get off the ground. Dick let me know that on Giving Tuesday, the Coleman Institute would provide some matching grant money for them. We were able to write a check for $10,000! Ana and Dick were there to receive the donation.

In addition to the check from the class, I contacted several class members who donated more directly to Empowering Gardens as well for another $1,500, plus one classmate is sending $25,000!

We had a few classmates there to help personally give the donation, and Jackie Sbarboro said she felt like she was in her own mini "It's a Wonderful Life" moment. Our classmates dug into their pockets so generously that we were able to help a struggling fledgling business with big visions!

A wonderful life indeed.

Kathleen Sullivan was a member of the OPRF class of 1968 reunion organizing committee.

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