In the giving spirit


Claire Chang

When he first immigrated to the U.S., Goodwill assistant manager Wilson Lee had little knowledge of the process and paperwork involved. However, his church stepped in, giving him advice and assisting him with the immigration process. Through his church, he realized he wanted to pursue a career that involved helping others.

When Lee came across a job opening for the assistant manager at Goodwill, he took the opportunity to help people give back and donate to their community. He also helps run programs like the Good Guard Security program that aims to change lives by giving people the experience necessary to get a job.

“I always feel good when I’m helping others and extending a hand to somebody else who is in need,” Lee said. “With this job I can also teach my kids [to] be grateful for what [they] have.”

And now, as the holiday season begins, more and more people are thinking about extending their hands to others in need. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, 43 percent of high net-worth donors donate more during the holidays, and 51 percent of charities receive the majority of their donations between October and December. This can be seen at MVHS, where 60 percent of 373 students surveyed said they donated or volunteered specifically during the holidays.

While Lee gets ready for another holiday season of giving, sophomore Ashley Liu is also preparing to donate to her community by volunteering. For Liu, the motivation to give stems from her previous positive experiences of helping others.

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Illustration by Ilena Peng.

“I’ve been to a lot of different places where we do food drives and we give people food,” Liu said. “We personally give them the food, and even though it’s not a really big meal or anything, I can see that they feel really happy. It kind of makes you feel good and want to give more.”

These experiences, along with others, sparked her desire to give back during the upcoming holiday season. One of Liu’s first experiences with charity was in a program at her Chinese school. Liu and her other classmates were each paired with an underprivileged family for Christmas and gave them gifts including toys, purses and clothes.

For sophomore Chetna Natarajan, improving others’ lives and pursuing her passions were both motivations to volunteer at Community Seva, a volunteer organization cofounded by her aunt. Community Seva provides meals to the hungry, and Natarajan enjoys helping cook and bake with the organization.

“I’ve always liked cooking and baking since I was a little kid,” Natarajan said. “I feel like making food for [people in need] is such a great privilege and I love doing it because it makes their life a little better. Obviously these shelters help them and they could go and make these foods themselves, [but] it may not be the same as having other people cook for you and having a good heart.”

Natarajan has been volunteering at her aunt’s organization for a year, and sometimes goes with her entire family to help. She volunteeres every month, and has noticed that Community Seva is busier during the holidays. Her favorite memory from volunteering was when she got to cook and serve pancakes by herself. She had the chance to interact with the people she was cooking food for, and having conversations with them and hearing their “thank you’s” made her experience more valuable.

Seeing the emotional impact of giving back made experiences like these resonate deeply with Liu, Natarajan and Lee. When reflecting on how holiday charity can help others, Lee remembers helping distribute Thanksgiving baskets for low-income families.

“It’s great to see the faces of the people when they receive them, all of the happiness that they have when they see that they have the food to have a Thanksgiving feast for their family,” Lee said.

In addition to providing help and happiness to those receiving charity, the season of giving can also provide a new perspective for the people who give. For Liu, it was the realization that she wanted to help out the less fortunate. Natarajan discovered that the importance of volunteering is so much more than another activity on an application; it can be rewarding in so many other ways.

“Don’t volunteer just for volunteering or college hours,” Natarajan said. “I know a lot of kids [who] say ‘Oh yeah I need volunteering hours and let’s just go to this place and get it done.’ Just cherish what you are doing. Do it out of the goodness of your heart.”

For Lee, it provided him with lessons of gratitude for his children and a newfound appreciation for extending a hand for someone in need.

“It shows people that the important thing is not the receiving,” Lee said. “The really important thing is giving. You should be the person who is giving, not always thinking of receiving.”