Idealist Gratitude: What Celeste and Tim are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.


Joe Bell

Joe Bell.
(photo via Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner)

Jadin Bell was 15 years old when he took his own life. He was an openly gay teen in La Grande, Oregon who couldn’t take the bullying anymore.

For six months afterward, his father Joe Bell walked across the U.S., talking to anybody who would listen about his son’s suicide: students, churchgoers, random passersby.

When I first read about Joe in this beautiful Salon article, I was moved by the sheer amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy it must’ve taken him to talk with all those strangers, rehashing such a painful event. As an idealist, I applauded him. As a mom, I cried.

Here Joe was, a grieving father helping the best way he knew how by literally taking steps toward ending homophobia. He set up a nonprofit, Faces for Change, to help fund the journey.

He made it as far as Colorado. In a terrible twist of fate, he was struck by a car and died last month.

This holiday, I’m grateful to Joe for showing me the remarkable depths of a parent’s love. I can only hope to be that dedicated, compassionate, and courageous someday.

Want to help break the bullying cycle? Search hundreds of opportunities on Idealist.



Celeste Hamilton Dennis is an editor at Idealist.





A cared-for classroom is a happy classroom.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

I’m thankful that exists. Whenever I get the urge for some retail therapy online, I stop first at DonorsChoose to browse. I find that donating towards the education of deserving students and classrooms in need makes me feel a lot better than a new pair of sneaks!

I first became aware of DonorsChoose when a previous employer of mine gave the staff $50 DonorsChoose “giftcards” rather than a traditional corporate holiday gift. The company was, in effect, giving money to worthy causes, and employees got to funnel the funds to things they were passionate about or interested in. I’ve been a fan since.

Just last week, I funded an elementary school class back in my home state of Ohio. They were looking to acquire books that would help the students learn to read while garnering scientific knowledge. My mother recently retired after decades as a reading teacher, and I am personally very interested in furthering STEM education, so this particular opportunity was a win-win!

Need some good giving ideas for the holidays? Browse the 80,000+ nonprofit organizations on our site for inspiration.



Tim Forster is a video producer at Idealist.

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6 ways to raise a caring kid

Guest blogger Lisa Novick offers simple strategies to encourage giving from a young age. This post was adapted from the original version on the YesKidzCan! blog

Kids always want stuff. More, more, more! As parents, what do we need to do to raise kids to make them leaders of the “Giving Generation” instead of the “Gimme Generation?”

I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t want to raise a caring kid. But, who among us hasn’t heard ourselves or our friends scream, “I am so busy!?” How do we fit one more thing into our hectic lives?

So here is a new way to think about community service: make “giving experiences” part of your every day routine. What is a giving experience? To me, it is any teachable, memorable, or enjoyable moment – big or small – that reinforces the value of giving back for kids and parents. There’s no reason why a giving experience can’t be easy.

Here are a few ideas for building giving experiences into your life:


Kids have fun baking dog biscuits to donate to local animal shelter. Photo via Lisa Novick.

1. Start young.
Involve your kids in a giving experience when they are as young as three or four. Even toddlers can help put outgrown shoes in a donation bag, pass along unwanted stuffed animals or toys, or gather canned goods.

2. Talk.
During mealtime, drive-time, or bedtime, ask your kids if they know what it means to be charitable. Explain that giving back can include donating money, time, or talent. Give or ask for examples of kind acts and build on these discussions over time.

For even younger kids, frame the discussion around what it means to be a “giver,” a “receiver,” or a “helper.” Also, ask questions such as “Did you help anyone today?” “Were you nice to someone today?”

It’s okay if your child does not have an affirmative answer. Just starting and continuing the discussion will help your kids notice their own kind acts.

3. Think small.
Reinforce your kids’ little acts of kindness. When your children show signs of compassion (such as saying hello to classmate who is shy, giving a friend a hug, or paying someone a compliment) acknowledge their actions by telling them how proud you feel. Encourage simple actions such as tying a younger child’s shoes, feeding the dog, or dropping off a neighbor’s newspaper. Simple actions can have extraordinary outcomes.

4. Find the right fit.
Take the time to select a service activity that works well with your kid’s personality and interests. If your child is shy, for example, avoid volunteering in an environment that is over-crowded, loud, or overwhelming. Tap into what your kid loves. If your child adores animals, support an animal shelter.

5. Take a different route.
Different kids are engaged by different things. Read a book with messages about giving back or kindness. Watch a movie or television program about social action, going green or animal welfare. Characters or storylines that illustrate good deeds can help reinforce the values you want to teach.

6. Piggyback.
Make a giving experience part of an existing outing, activity, or event. When you go back-to-school or grocery shopping, bring your kids with you to help purchase extra supplies or food to donate to a local charity. Consider building in a charitable component to a birthday or slumber party. When it is time to buy teacher gifts, give a donation or gift certificate in the teacher’s name and involve your kids in the charity selection.

Wouldn’t it be something if we all heard from our kids a little less of the “What can I get” refrain and a little more of the “What can I give?”  How are YOU helping to raise a caring kid?

Know a youth in your life who has an idea to change the world? Encourage them to apply for YesKidzCan!’s Social KidPreneurz Awards Program and win $100 to fund their idea. 

ColorHeadShot-1 Lisa Novick has worked in the field of philanthropy for more than 25 years as a consultant, fundraiser, and volunteer. She was a partner at a socially responsible consulting firm that helped corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies effectively support their communities and causes. While taking time off to raise her family, she and co-founder, Julie Chapman, discovered a need for more resources that help parents, educators, and community leaders teach kids about charitable giving. Combining their personal and professional commitment to doing good works, they launched YesKidzCan! – an online resource that helps bring “giving experiences” into young kids’ lives.

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