Jan Bright is a member of the Circle of Joy, a retired high school English teacher after 26 years, married 42 years, with two children, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her hobbies and interests include traveling, shipping, music, dance, and movies. She is a chartered member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and a Red Hatter.
Jan’s Life Philosophy: Life is a precious gift; treasure every moment of it and give it the respect and consideration that it deserves. Live deliberately (with intention).
Henry David Thoreau wrote that men live lives of quiet desperation. If that is indeed true, what makes us so desperate? I think that we may be driven by two forces:
- relevancy and purpose;
- we want to know that we matter, and we want to know that we can make a difference.
I know that personally I achieved both of those things through my family, friends, and career. I received great satisfaction knowing that I was loved and respected in all three of those areas in my life, but what happens when life’s dynamics change things, and families grow up and out, friendships change, and jobs expire? Where do you find relevance and purpose then?
I found them in philanthropy, something I had done all of my life without ever giving it a formal word or definition. I thought that I was just being thoughtful, kind, a good person, but in my own, small way, I had been a philanthropist all of my life. It wasn’t until I joined a philanthropic group that I realized the significance and the power of my giving spirit.
I was blessed to be invited into a giving circle, the Circle of Joy, a little over a year ago by one of my former students who founded the group and started it with a few friends who were also former students of mine. Because I had already made such an important impact on their lives, they thought that the Circle of Joy would be an organization that would be a perfect fit for me. It is! It is so wonderful to be one of a dozen individuals who pool our monies annually and along with fundraisers donate those monies to various groups which we have chosen to support. Our focus is youth, and so far we have nurtured, mentored, supported, and sponsored three groups over the past five years: Children Without Mothers (the mothers are incarcerated), All Grown Up (teen girls needing a helping hand), and Pride for Parents (a neighborhood community struggling to provide for their families).
So far we have been able to grant these three groups a total of $15,000 over a fairly short amount of time, and we don’t just grant dollars and cents; we also give of our time, and as a result of this partnership, we have established a strong bond and sense of community with them. We are one of fourteen organizations in the US right now who have formed philanthropic circles, and we work extensively and intimately with the Community Investment Network, and they provide us with financial support, leadership training, and a social network that indeed strengthens and educates us so that we are more efficient and beneficial to the communities we serve.
In the year since I have been a member of the Circle of Joy, I have already attended the 2012 Conference, The Philanthropic Renaissance held in Birmingham, AL and a Leadership Conference in Raleigh, NC in April 2013. Those events were totally beneficial and rewarding to me, and I will cherish those experiences forever. To collectively be with like minded individuals who share your same vision and joy for improving improving and sustaining communities in your local area is just awesome! To have members of the CIN staff who are there to share ideas, techniques, and strategies with you that will make you better equipped to nurture not only your giving circle but any group that you choose to partner with in the future is incredible! To see what other giving circles are doing on a national level in their own communities is just mind blowing: from hearing about the Birmingham Change Fund changing policies in the Birmingham School System to people in Raleigh/Durham who are impacting the food desert in their state and trying to change the way food is grown and distributed so that families don’t have to go hungry, to the newest circle consisting of Native American Indians who are striving to change the quality of Life for a group of people who have been downtrodden for far too long in this country. CIN provides us with the opportunity to combine our strengths and our talents and our vision and know and feel the difference that we can make!
The next big conference is October 3-6 in Denver, Colorado and we are committed to making Beyond the Mountaintop the best one ever. I strongly encourage all who can to attend this event because it will only help to further ignite a rededication, a recommitment in every philanthropist who attends. I believe that attending the conference will instill a firmer resolve of what we need to do and what we need to be to truly make that difference that we want to make, not only in the world in which we live, but in ourselves as well!
I love the fact that I am able to make that difference, and I encourage others to do the same; our lives do not have to be filled with quiet desperation; instead, we want lives that are filled with the riotous, joyful, satisfying, and energizing giving!