I attended a luncheon at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. I was one of the guests of Dr. Pauline Olsen, who was being honored by the Kraft Family Foundation for her work with the Malta House of Care and the Malta Food Pantry, both in Hartford. The Kraft family made a generous donation to Olsen for the Malta charities.
It was a wonderful lunch hosted by the Krafts, who were friendly and articulate. One of the Kraft family had finished the Boston Marathon this year, leading more than 20 members of the New England Patriots organization in memory of victims of the bombing at the 2013 event.
The speeches were short, and 25 people were given substantial grants for their groups to further their charitable work.
It was a lesson that wealth can be an advantage but also carries with it the obligation to help others. The highly educated Krafts have inherited vast wealth but also a gene for generosity.
Recently, here in Manchester, we lost one of our outstanding citizens, Sonny Damato. Damato’s story is different from the Kraft saga in that after eighth grade he had to leave school as his father had died. He became the sole support of his mother and siblings. For years he labored in whatever job he could get to earn money.
Sixty years ago Damato branched into real estate and over the years he built a formidable empire of apartments and houses. This was achieved by hard work, integrity, and attention to detail.
Aware of the bad luck that had befallen his own family, Damato was determined to help all those in need and support the many organizations that are dedicated to helping others. His work is there in bricks and concrete, but his real legacy is in the hearts of his fellow citizens who remember his humility and largesse.
There are many others who have given generously. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett come to mind. The unbelievable riches that have come from the revolution in technology have been used to educate less fortunate citizens and to fund research in many medical conditions. Government agencies do help enormously but the private sector can often fund unconventional ideas that might be difficult to justify to politicians who are closely monitored by their constituents and critics.
Outside the big hitters there is a remarkable group of people who volunteer their services to many organizations. It is impossible to fully estimate the impact of these remarkable citizens who never seek recognition and are often not honored and unsung.
We don’t have any statistics about their numbers and the time they donate. I would be surprised if their number is not over 50 million and the time they give is probably in the billions of hours every year.
Don’t get me wrong. They are appreciated at the community level and a substantial number of big hitters don’t ever search for publicity except in circumstances where a public profile enhances some charity. Without both groups this country would stagnate and millions would suffer unnecessarily.
Who are these community volunteers? They help in food kitchens and pantries. They tutor the young, fight illiteracy, and serve the elderly in myriad ways. They help run golf tournaments and road races and are always front and center in raising funds for charities. Without them nothing would work.
An old adage tells us that one volunteer is worth 10 pressed men. Or as somebody recently said, “Volunteers don’t get paid anything, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
As we celebrate our national holiday, let us raise a small shout for the generous people who make everything work.
Dr. Eamon Flanagan is a Manchester resident.