Hello readers! My name is Kristen and I am the Director of Coastal Development for United Way of Santa Rosa County. I am very excited to be a new columnist here and look forward to sharing with you over the next year. My column is called “Living the United Way” and you can look at it as your Guide to Giving, Advocating and Volunteering in Santa Rosa County. Today I am writing about The Heart of Giving and how it impacts our community.

Every day we are asked to give. Can you give me a hand? Let’s give a round of applause to ... Will you give me a glass of water? Would you like to give to ABC Charity? But how often do we really stop and think about what it truly means to give? Webster’s Dictionary has many definitions of the word Give, but my favorite, and the one I feel best defines the Heart of Giving is; “to enter wholeheartedly into an activity”. The activity can be giving our time for a community event, our expertise for a special project, our resources in helping a neighbor, or our money to a cause close to us. But when any of these things are done wholeheartedly we are impacting lives and our community in ways greater than we could ever imagine. It doesn’t matter if you can give $1 or $1,000, 10 minutes or 10 hours; when you give of yourself and with a Giving Heart your impact will be felt.

It is my belief that we are all born with a Giving Heart. We do not want to see people in pain, in struggle or in need. When we see this there is an urge inside of us to give. In a 2010 Harvard Business School paper, research suggests that generosity seems to generate positive feelings in people, and that using resources to help others is consistently associated with greater happiness. While this study focused on financial giving, generosity can assume many forms. I believe that this principle of happiness extends beyond financial giving to all forms of giving.

We have a community that is full of givers. You may not realize it, but most of the people you interact with on a daily basis have a giving heart. Did you know that your Publix cashier gives a portion of her paycheck so that those without healthcare can receive help at the Good Samaritan Clinic? Or that for over 11 years Gulf Power employees have given their time at The ARC Santa Rosa with projects such as painting, repairing sheds and creating a nature trail at their facility? Next time you go to the grocery store or pay your power bill think about the giving hearts of those employees and know that while you may not “see” their giving, they are making an impact in your community. An impact that you can make as well by giving wholeheartedly into an activity that speaks to you.

Every year through the 16 agencies that United Way helps fund, over 25% of Santa Rosa County is impacted directly and many, many more indirectly. Not just through these agencies, but through the power of our giving hearts, let’s all make a goal this year that 100% of Santa Rosa County be impacted in some way through our generosity.