Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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Creative philanthropy: Southern Nevada groups are thinking outside the box to help those who need assistance

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Miranda Alam/Special to The Sunday

Volunteers Wayne Eady center, and Nicholas Marquart, above, work on Brian Harris’ car during a free brake light repair clinic hosted by the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in North Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018.

Brake Light Repair Clinic

Volunteer Nicholas Marquart works on Kim Berlynn's truck during a free brake light repair clinic hosted by the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in North Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. Launch slideshow »

From nonprofits that would benefit from an extra financial boost to people who could use a little assistance, there are plenty of needs in the community. That’s why a variety of local groups are trying dynamic ways to give back. Here are just a few of the many methods in the valley.

Giving circles

Five years ago, Minnie Wood and a few of her longtime friends were sitting around talking about end-of-year donations.

“We just knew we could do something better,” she said.

She thought her sphere of friends could pool their money to offer a larger donation to one local group in need.

As it turns out, Wood wasn’t alone in the concept.

Giving circles have been created all over the country as a way for people to come together to pool resources to better benefit the community.

In Las Vegas, there are a few of them. They include the Women’s Giving Circle of Southern Nevada and Henderson GiVe, which also collects money to donate to various nonprofits throughout the year.

Each group has its own method for donating. For the Women’s Giving Circle of Southern Nevada, each participant gives $250 per year.

Wood said this group has certain interested areas it gravitates toward: women and children’s health, racial justice, the environment, education and access to the arts.

The women vote to decide what topics they want to focus on for that year and then find organizations that fall into those areas. Wood added that the group tries to pick smaller nonprofits that could really benefit from a donation.

“Then, some of us will go and do site visits or meet with people from the nonprofit,” Wood added. “That’s how we decided which one to donate to.”

They’ve donated to the Rape Crisis Center and more recently the Embracing Project and Baby’s Bounty, each of which received $2,000.

Throughout the year, the group, which has upward of 25 members, stays connected via social media to discuss the importance of philanthropy.

“We post articles about what it means to give or the most effective ways to give,” Wood said.

The group also tries to do service projects together.

Wood said it’s not just the nonprofits that benefit from a financial contribution.

“This is how we become aware of what’s going on in the community,” she said. “This is what makes us feel connected.”

Women’s Giving Circle of Southern Nevada: website, email

• Henderson GiVe: website

Brake light repair clinic

For many low-income communities, a broken taillight can be the start of other problems such as costly tickets they can’t afford.

That’s why the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America, Faith Organizing Alliance and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada hosted multiple taillight repair clinics.

“And the response has been great so far,” said Leonard Jackson, the director of Faith Organizing Alliance. “We are considering doing it again, maybe even doing it on a more regular basis.”

The groups enlisted local mechanics to donate their time on the weekends as well as volunteers to hold signs on the street corner to advertise the free service.

Jackson said fixing a broken taillight usually ranks low on a list of priorities for people who are unemployed or underemployed.

“It’s not something they really can think about,” he said. “Oftentimes, they don’t even realize it.”

Being pulled over and issued a citation for a broken light could lead a person down a spiral toward debt and even jail time.

As a response, various social groups in cities across the U.S. have tried to provide resources to stop the problem at the source.

Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada: 702-791-1965, website, email

Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America: website, email

Faith Organizing Alliance: 702-888-3958, website,email

Paying for extracurricular activities

When families live paycheck to paycheck, nonessential items like entertainment can fall by the wayside. That often means children might not get to participate in many childhood activities such as sports or music.

“If registration for a sport is $100 and it costs anywhere from $150 to $400 for uniforms and equipment, you’re looking at $600 or $700 before you’re fully equipped and ready to play,” said Sophia Smith, who created the Strong ARM Foundation to help children pay for a variety of extracurricular activities. “That’s just not doable for some families.”

In four years, the organization has helped more than 300 children across the valley.

Parents in financial need can apply for assistance with the foundation ­by showing paperwork to prove their financial status.

If approved, applicants receive funding for such expenses as registration fees for sports or classes at local recreation centers.

“I’ve had parents who have cried when they find out they’ve been approved,” Smith said.

While sports is a primary focus, the organization has seen more families asking for assistance related to the arts and community classes, such as cooking classes at recreation centers.

“It’s whatever keeps kids active and engaged,” Smith said.

Strong ARM Foundation: 702-727-1456 ext. 801,website