Foundations, Know Thyself

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

I’ve been on local television for nearly 30 years, and the recognition that comes with it (especially to an older demographic) drives my 9-year-old son crazy. So when a middle-aged gentleman stopped me in the parking lot of a local restaurant a couple weeks ago, and wanted to know if I was “the news man,” Nick the Charming Scoundrel sighed and asked:

“Are you like the Old People’s Celebrity?”

It is what it is. I’m not sure how he specifically defines ‘old people’ (I remember thinking my Dad at 45 had to be the most ancient human being on the planet), but his analysis struck a chord with me when it came to giving. I mean, I could deny that most of the people who call my name at a ballgame or conference are over 30, but that is pretty much the truth.

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The Young Hearts of Louisiana

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

Photo credit: MELISSA LEAKE/US COAST GUARD/HAN/EPA

Photo credit: MELISSA LEAKE/US COAST GUARD/HAN/EPA

In the face of tragedy, there has also been pure, philanthropic magic.

On August 12, the deluge began here in south Louisiana, and during the days that followed, there have been numbers that simply want to make you cry: 40,000 homes damaged. 20,000 people rescued. 6.9 trillion (no typo) gallons of rainfall. 13 deaths. $40 million in damages (and counting). From Lafayette to Baton Rouge, lives have been uprooted, treasured memories lost, and faith shaken to its very core.

Our United Ways, the American Red Cross, and other organizations were quickly mobilized, and immediate aid was sent to many in need. My TV station, KATC, teamed with four United Way chapters for ‘The Spirit of Acadiana Flood Relief Telethon’ and raised nearly $150,000 in only three hours, all because of the generous spirit of wonderful people, many of whom had already seen their ‘pre-flooding’ lives derailed by the downturn in the oil industry. People have given and given and given again, with money, food, shelter, labor, connections, and prayers.

It’s like, you know you love your community and its people, but you never really appreciate it until you see their hearts in action. And the people of south Louisiana have huge, caring hearts.

What has dazzled me even more is the volunteerism being exhibited by our young people.

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Nobody’s (Philanthropically) Perfect

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

It was one of those rare occasions in which our family actually made it to Sunday Mass early, and, as part of my reward for making it into church prior to 11 a.m., I was asked to fill in and serve as an usher, the main job being….

Passing the collection basket.

It had been years since I’d done this; usually I’m a lector or Eucharistic Minister, but, as I said, I probably hadn’t reached across people with a metal basket attached to a fairly long handle in well over a decade. Still, wanting to help out, I said “yes,” and immediately after our pastor’s sermon (don’t ask me his topic; I was too nervous about doing my offertory job), I processed up the center aisle of Holy Cross Catholic Church with basket in hand, bowed to our priest, turned to my right…

And immediately struck a woman in the first row with the collection basket. She smiled, I mouthed the words “sorry,” took a step back…

And struck a gentleman in the second row. Then I slapped a double on third row (hit a man on the wrist and his son on the arm) and grazed a family of three on the row after that. My holy path of destruction came to an end shortly after that, and at no time was there a need for immediate medical personnel.

Still, it wasn’t my finest hour, and you know what? That’s alright. Perfection wasn’t and isn’t required for passing the collection basket… Or for being involved in philanthropy.

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Welcome to Junior Philanthropy

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

“Over the next few weeks you’re going to feel like you’re in a philanthropy class, a theology class, a business class, a sociology class, heck… even a life skills class.” And so begins the first session for the Junior Philanthropy classes I’ve conducted in a number of schools in our little part of southwest Louisiana.

What’s the difference between charity and philanthropy? Why do people give? How do people give? How do people ask? What are the characteristics of a winning nonprofit organization? Can young people make a difference? And do you have to be a millionaire to be a philanthropist? Those are just some to topics sent toward the fertile minds of students between the ages of 12 and 18.

I was looking for a way to lay a foundation with our area’s young people—our future leaders, board members, staff, and volunteers. I was looking for a way to plant a seed of community, and to present them with…. possibilities.

I began with the low-hanging fruit—my high school alma mater. The school’s director of faith formation asked, “Can we fit your philanthropy lesson within our senior theology classes?” To which I answered, “Didn’t Jesus know a thing or two about ‘giving’?” And so off we went.

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A Philanthropist Is Born

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

My five-year-old son had turned entrepreneur.

“Autographs for a dollar! Get my autograph for just one dollar!”

On one hand, I was surprised; on another, I was proud; and on a third, uh, hand, I was on edge. What was my son doing, turning my charitable appearance for a local nonprofit into a chance to make a few bucks?

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I Am Not Alone – And Neither Are You

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

Moving from one job to a decidedly different form of employment can humble the human soul to its very core.

Case in point: yours truly. As a television news and sports anchor, I felt I knew all the issues and had all the answers. I was confident. Oh, so confident. Heck, I was invincible.

Then came the transition. Out went the newsman, in came the executive director. Out went the answers, in came the questions, questions, and more questions.

My first two months as executive director of The Stuller Family Foundation were a blur. Site visit? Impact? Evaluation? What foreign language gave rise to these words? I also wondered, Will my old station take me back? Continue reading