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July 2016
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Tomatoes, Kale, and Values - What Are You Planting?

by Chris Askin
President and CEO
Community Foundation of Western Nevada

Chris Askin
Chris Askin

When I was 12- years-old, we moved to a rural property, and my dad bought a rototiller. Little did I know how much his purchase would affect my life. It turned out that he had plans to plant a garden. Not your "garden" variety plot but an orchard, and rows of almost every known vegetable known to man. Shortly after that he placed some stakes in the ground and asked me if I'd like to earn extra money helping him by rototilling the space. He offered $3 per hour, a princely sum in those days for a 12-year-old who spent considerable time looking at bicycles and kayaks in the Sears catalog. I was excited to have the opportunity to earn. What I know now is that Dad wasn't just planning on having vast quantities of healthy food for the supper table, but he was also teaching me the value of hard work.

Americans nurture deep values. One of the most powerful is freedom. When I was a kid, I took that for granted but not anymore. I am grateful every day for the freedom we enjoy. In my teen years, I was involved in 4-H and learned about leadership and citizenship. I also learned about other American values, such as helping people and giving back. I was encouraged to look around and see what I could do to pitch in. As a result, I taught bicycle safety in elementary schools, arranged groups of youth to visit assisted living facilities, and raised money for groups like the American Heart Association. My eyes were opened to the wealth we have and the needs of so many. The seeds my parents planted rooted within me.

Every day we plant seeds. In our family, with our friends, and with strangers who notice the example we set. When we demonstrate our honesty, forgiveness, respect, responsibility, patience, empathy, or generosity, we are helping others to build strong values. I believe it is important for each of us to reflect on our values and then compare the values we hold dear to the values we are demonstrating in the way we live. Actions speak louder than words.

Are you a gardener? Washoe County has a pretty good climate for gardening, and I'm delighted that some of my coworkers have green thumbs because they share the bounty. We just finished a shared bunch of delicious home-grown tangerines, and I know more green and colorful items will be coming. Although I love home-grown produce, I find that I enjoy planting seeds of a different kind - those relating to philanthropy. Some seeds grow quickly, and others need a long time to develop.


A couple of years ago I met with a local group from the Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden. These people know how to grow magnificent trees and public gardens. That day they were tending a different kind of resource, an endowment to produce income that will help them achieve their vision for an incredible arboretum. Endowment cultivation takes years, but the Arboretum Endowment Committee is enriched with values such as the value of hard work that my parents taught me, along with faith. Right away their seeds began to grow gifts to the endowment. But it didn't just happen all by itself. Just like a garden, the committee prepared the soil, added nourishments, and tended their plans daily. I knew the Arboretum group had green thumbs, but it turns out that the same care with which they tend the arboretum yielded tremendous results for the arboretum endowment. They are a group to be admired.

Your friends and neighbors are planting seeds now that will bear fruit for our community in the future. People throughout the region are leading by example planting charitable seeds and, as a result, dozens of endowments have been established at the Community Foundation.

Charitable endowments will provide scholarships for youth, educate the community about nutrition, protect our open spaces, fund youth leadership programs, help keep our city clean, teach our history, keep our libraries open and vibrant, create music and theater opportunities, sustain art programs and museums, improve our swimming pools, expand our trails and recreational opportunities, and support our community in just about any way you can imagine. The Community Foundation helps tend this diverse, flourishing, and important philanthropic garden for our community.

The garden my dad started grew bountifully. For many years, we picked much more than we could use. We shared the harvest with friends and family and ate until we could eat no more. My parents' gardening interest evolved and they now plant flowers, trees, and shrubs. Their yard is beautiful, and the fruit trees are still producing. When I visit them, I end up with bags and boxes of fruit to bring home.

The values I planted in our two children, now in their 20s, are bearing fruit as well. They are strong, smart people who make us proud every day. Our kids are also charitable and care about other people and community. One of the seeds we have planted is a charitable bequest. Someday when we pass they will have money in a charitable fund at the Community Foundation to give to causes they care about. I have full faith that they will make great choices.

Perhaps you've planted a garden this year, and if you have any extra…my number is 775-333-5499. If you'd like to plant seeds of the charitable sort, the Community Foundation of Western Nevada is here to help. Like the Wilbur D. May Arboretum Society, we have a green thumb for philanthropic seeds.