Guest Editor – Nan O’Kelley (LT 26)

Leadership Tallahassee prepares us to improve our community through economic and civic service. I will admit, I did not know this, or have the foggiest idea as to what Leadership Tallahassee was, when I applied. Thankfully, my boss at the time “encouraged” me to apply and I miraculously became a member of LT Class 26. Now I can’t imagine not having been a part of this program, and I’m so very proud to still be involved today.

Despite my rocky start with the program-There is a funny story (for another time) that goes with my miraculous acceptance, then, our class orientation was about one week after the birth of my second child (I showed up, and yes, people thought I was still pregnant… I will not name names, but I have not forgotten), finally, a hurricane was scheduled to hit Jacksonville the weekend of our opening retreat, so it was rescheduled for another time – at the Ramada Inn – in Tallahassee-my class immediately rallied and never looked back! In fact, we arrived at our retreat in matching t-shirts that bore the statement “We will not retreat”. This was my first glimpse of what I was about to experience during my LT year.

I had no idea how much this program would change me. I now have a deeper understanding of the various sectors in our community, the amazing things they do, along with the issues they face. I find myself engaged in the community in different, more meaningful ways than I was previously. And as an added bonus, I now have some incredible friends I may have never had the opportunity to meet. I am proud to be a part of the LT family and am grateful for all the ways it has given back to me.

Acts of philanthropy work much in the same way. Our thoughts on philanthropy typically center on giving money or time to organizations because that is what we are “supposed” to do, but then you find once you engage in the experience, it gives back to you. Not only do you connect in a new and significant way with people or an organization, but giving makes you feel good. Literally! Research shows the act of giving (time, money or advice) releases dopamine, which controls the brains centers for reward and pleasure. Researchers call this the “helper’s high” or “giver’s glow” and state the benefits are lifelong.

When it comes to philanthropy, Tallahassee businesses also give back. They not only give financially, but support and encourage their employees’ efforts to engage. And, in turn philanthropy gives back to businesses as well. Corporate philanthropy has been proven to increase morale, improve company image, drive recruitment and retention and it just makes a business’s employees feel good. I would venture to say those benefits are lifelong too.

During the holiday season, we often come together in the spirit of giving, so let’s celebrate the opportunities we have as leaders to give back, and remember the needs of our community exist year round.