"...all 40 cases of the Giving Fund were fully funded by contributions from people in Greater Danbury who care about their neighbors. That’s how I know that the values of Forrest Palmer live on. When so many neighbors do not hesitate to write a check to help people completely unknown to them, it means that the values of compassion and caring have endured, despite what your smartphone might be telling you."
Please read the entirety of this moving op-ed by our interim president Isabel Almeida, published in today's edition of The News-Times (Danbury):
Reading the obituary of Forrest C. Palmer, an account of a life so well and fully lived, gave me pause. Like so many of his generation, Mr. Palmer was raised in a small town in a way that many today would consider quaint — attending small schools in Plymouth, Connecticut, no doubt rarely meeting anyone beyond the bounds of his community, his only connections to the broader world through books or an evening radio program. It seems like an innocent, simple upbringing in a nurturing cocoon. Could he have imagined that before the age of 20 he would be landing on Omaha Beach, forging on to the Battle of the Bulge, called upon, literally, to save the free world from the tyranny of the Nazis?
No doubt the people who received the Forrest C. Palmer Award had discovered that when we do answer the call to do something bigger than ourselves, we ourselves become bigger, better people. Our hearts, like the Grinch’s, grow in size. Working in the nonprofit world, I’m honored to find myself constantly bumping into Forrest Palmers — people who take the time to help others in big and small ways. You can tell by their demeanor that the time they have dedicated to others does not deplete them, it energizes them.
Today, watching the news and surfing the net, we all might feel as though the values of community service and helping our neighbors are long gone. It just seems like an eternal shouting match: I’m right and you’re wrong; it’s about “me” and not about “we.” The world that exists on our computers and smartphones — and sometimes in our own heads — has become mired, as Arthur C. Brooks puts it, in a “culture of contempt.”
But, happily, I’m here to report that in the “real” world that’s just not true.
This year, as in the past eight years, United Way of Western Connecticut partnered with The News-Times on The Giving Fund, a program that presents cases of people who are struggling and gives community members the opportunity to lend them a hand. These are anonymous stories of real people whose lives have been devastated by cancer or domestic abuse or a job loss.
Over the holidays, I learned that, this year, as in past years, all 40 cases of the Giving Fund were fully funded by contributions from people in Greater Danbury who care about their neighbors. That’s how I know that the values of Forrest Palmer live on. When so many neighbors do not hesitate to write a check to help people completely unknown to them, it means that the values of compassion and caring have endured, despite what your smartphone might be telling you.
The City of Danbury, the newspaper business, and even philanthropy have certainly changed in the 30 years since Forrest Palmer retired. What doesn’t change, undoubtedly, is that there will always be people who are going through tough times and who need a hand. Fortunately, I believe that there will always be people willing to offer that hand.
United Way of Western Connecticut is honored to connect people in need with those who have the means to help them. The values that bind us together might be “flying under the radar” in today’s culture, but they’re still there. Just ask the people who get — and give — through The Giving Fund or volunteer their service as Forrest Palmer did.
Isabel Almeida is the Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Way of Western Connecticut.