Teen gains insight on caring for one's neighbor

Hinsdale's Molly McGarry was not familiar with the concept of philanthropy when she began her studies at Nazareth Academy.

She is now, thanks to her participation in Community Memorial Foundation's Young Community Changemakers program.

Upperclassmen from area schools are invited to apply for the program, known as YC2, designed to educate and empower local youth to become the next generation of philanthropists by sharing their time and treasure for the common good.

"We learned what philanthropy was and what it took to be a philanthropist," said McGarry, a rising senior.

After that educational component, it was time to put that knowledge into practice. McGarry and her cohorts were split into two groups, with each given $15,000 in grant funds to award to worthy causes.

"Each group established their own funding priority," she explained. "Our group's priority was housing, homelessness prevention and basic needs for everyone."

Local nonprofits were notified of the grant opportunity, and McGarry's group received 10 applications.

"We started researching the organizations that had applied for grants," she said. "Then we had to narrow it down to the five that we wanted to site visit."

Rewinding a bit, McGarry first heard about the YC2 program through the Youth Initiative Club at Nazareth that she's been active in since freshman year. The club sponsor suggested she look into it when she became eligible as a junior.

"Just the fact that she thought I would be a good fit for the program kind of drew me to it," she said.

McGarry, one of 60 chosen for the 2024 class, quickly discovered that the scale of social needs in the western Cook and southeastern DuPage region in which she'd spent her entire life was greater than she'd realized.

Just trying to whittle the candidates down from 10 to five was challenging, as all had merit, she said. Her site visit was to Hope's Front Door in Downers Grove, which provides immediate assistance and cultivates long-term solutions for those facing crisis.

McGarry was stirred by the experience.

"They work with Hinsdale, Downers Grove and all the surrounding towns," she said. "I didn't know how much was needed and how many people benefited from what the agency does."

Perhaps the most constructive lesson during the process occurred when it came time to find consensus on distributing the funds.

"It took us like two hours to decide," she said. "Some people wanted to give all $15,000 to one, or do $10,000 and $5,000. Ultimately as a group we decided on three: $6,000 each to two and $3,000 to one. I'm really happy with what we decided."

This summer McGarry will again volunteer at UChicago Medicine AdventHealth Hinsdale, supporting nurses by taking phone calls, making lab runs and other tasks. She's also will travel to London to take in a concert by an up-and-coming artist named Taylor Swift. Beyond that, she intends to keep practicing what she's learned about "the differences between philanthropy and charity, and how philanthropy is more long-term," she said.

"It helps the community in ways that aren't fully seen."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean