What Inspires You to Pay it Forward?

Categories: Feature

As I reflect on the past several months and prepare for the holiday season, I’m mindful of the many times that I have felt the warmth of kindness or the “high-five effect” of accomplishment through collaboration. My awareness of the needs in our community is heightened, and my desire to work together with others who care motivates me each day.

Each year, friends, volunteers and generous supporters of Catholic Charities make donations to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community stay warm, have enough to eat, and receive the care they need.  Last year alone, about 143,000 people, including families with children, were helped through our programs in DC and the five surrounding Maryland counties. More than 7,500 people made charitable donations to help others. For every $1 donated, almost 87 cents went directly to our programs that provided direct care. More than 5,300 people donated their time, providing the human connection that everyone needs and deserves.

I’m moved by experiencing and learning about the stories of human connection. A warm smile, a quiet acknowledgement or friendly handshake truly goes a long way for someone in crisis or feeling lonely. The receiver is grateful, but the giver is transformed. It’s a deep-seated feeling that nothing else can replicate. I like to think it’s God working through us.

I’m also moved by how my children have seen the injustice of poverty and how they enthusiastically embrace service opportunities. We have stood side-by-side serving St. Maria’s Meals, penned positive messages and knock-knock jokes to include in Cup of Joe breakfast bags, and thoughtfully curated gifts of toys, books, and warm coats for children as part of our Angel Tree program. They carry in their hearts the good that they do for others, and I hear them proudly share what I do as a profession with their friends. I’m humbled to know they see me this way, and I like to think it will shape their future paths in life. 

Part of my role at Catholic Charities is to help ensure each of our clients has access to the programs and services they need, and to do that we rely heavily on generous partners in our community. Making a gift to or volunteering at Catholic Charities means so much to us. You know you have changed the trajectory of someone’s life in their moment of need. You have helped our team plan by providing resources that alleviate our burden and allow us to say, “Yes.”  You have a positive effect on others — giving to Catholic Charities has a ripple effect extending far beyond our building. Collectively, gifts of all sizes sustain the excellence of our programs, which address the number of complex challenges in our community.

I’m often asked what the most popular giving vehicles are. Here are the top ways in which donors to Catholic Charities benefit and provide significant impact to the people we care for. 

Charitable Rollover Gift from your IRA
If you are age 70½ or older, you can direct up to $100,000 each calendar year to charity from a qualified IRA. The distribution is tax-free and counts toward your required minimum distribution with the bonus of supporting Catholic Charities. Distributions must be sent directly to Catholic Charities.

Donor Advised Funds
One of the fastest growing giving vehicles is the donor-advised fund, which is established at a public charity. It allows you to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants from the fund over time to qualified organizations such as Catholic Charities.                                                                                                                                          

Appreciated Securities
Giving appreciated securities to a qualified organization such as Catholic Charities entitles you to a charitable deduction for the fair market value of the shares and may allow you to avoid capital gains tax.

Like my family, we can all make a difference in the life of someone else through volunteering time or a gift of financial resources. No action or gift is too small. Thank you to the thousands who help us each year!

To learn more about our volunteer opportunities or to make a gift, please visit us online or contact us. We are here to help, and we would be honored to be a part of your story and legacy as you pay it forward. 

As chief development officer, Tara Arras is a member of the executive team at Catholic Charities DC.