Opinion | Bargell: Giving and thanks in Summit County

Cindy Bargell
Guest column

Last Thursday night was the twenty-eighth year that Summit County has come together to celebrate the folks who make philanthropy their priority. The Philanthropy Awards hosted by the Summit Foundation honors the givers in our community. There are so many categories, from outstanding student to that individual who exudes the spirit of the Summit, it’s somewhat mind boggling there are enough people in our little community to fill the slate of awardees, year after year after year. The individuals’ gifts come in a myriad of forms, proving that philanthropy is not a one size fits all proposition. Instead, the theme revolved around sharing a passion, and we all know Summit is full of passionate folks. Thankfully, on this evening, the passion steered clear of politics, trails and trolls. Instead, it was all about the little things, the countless connections that create community. Apparently, these crazy people actually believe they can make a difference, and story after story proved they were not off the mark.

One decided advantage of attending the evening’s festivities, aside from some pretty spectacular food and the prescribed dose of inspiration, is the chance to hear the rest of the story. Snippets overheard in passing about the individuals that make their contributions even more intriguing. That beautiful young mom who generously shares her passion for folkloric dance? She’s getting her master’s degree on the side. That couple honored for philanthropy? One day they noticed that all too many kids in the CMC classes they were taking for fun did not have the required, and often very expensive, textbooks. So, this couple did something about it. Who knew that being aware of this one small fact would grow into a mentoring program that has successfully kept so many kids in college? Gracious in receiving the award, the recipient later told me that it might have been a just a bit premature – because, well, they are just getting starting in helping others. And, perhaps the most memorable speech of the evening was the shortest. Delivered by the preschool teacher honored as the outstanding educator, she first gathered out attention in characteristic preschool fashion. She told us all to put our hands on our heads, and then in our laps. Every adult in the room obliged. As I looked around the room and smiled at all the grown-ups now hanging on her every word, she delivered just two — a heart-felt “thank you.” We all were listening.

Philanthropy it seems is not just about the money. It’s about all those small gestures that show people you care. Aesop’s words of wisdom came to mind, “no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” I started playing around with this sage advice. No small act of “giving”, “compassion”, “gratitude” or “generosity” … you get the idea, is ever wasted. Then, I considered all the things I tend to waste time on. The examination was eye-opening, and not necessarily in the best of ways. In the room full of big givers, however, I decided it’s OK to start small, inspired by all the acts in our community that clearly were not wasted. As we left there was a lightness in the air, smiles on every face and more than a few teary-eyed folks. Even the sweet bartender, on his feet for hours, had kind words for all as we departed, perhaps a small act, but of course not wasted.

Here’s to a big Thanksgiving where no act is wasted, and where every small gesture of goodness will grow.

Cindy Bargell is a Summit County mom and Summit Foundation Board member. She always welcomes comments at

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