Thoughts On Giving

by Jeanette Cool, Alumni Parent and Executive Director of The Sam Mazza Foundation 

The word ‘philanthropy’ unfolds into a simple and beautiful definition — the love of people — and yet that love that requires an action: giving, helping, easing, improving, and creating. 

As a child growing up on a farm in very rural Nebraska, “philanthropy” was all around my family — sharing garden produce with others; bringing labor to a fellow farmer who had fallen ill, helping a family less fortunate with cooking; school supplies, clothing and housework; giving money through churches, fraternal organizations and, of course, raising money at school for marching band uniforms! To give time and energy to fundraising and service projects was natural and second nature. Family and community modeled giving from the heart. All generations, including the children worked together for a common good. 

These loving acts were not considered philanthropic in my rural community, but rather simply “what you do”. Philanthropy was nothing fancy, with no fanfare... but a definite commitment mingled with obligation to help others, support the commons, and share our good fortune. I sense that this feeling of obligation and commitment to others is at the root of our very nature as human beings.

Subtly, but brilliantly woven into the fabric of giving is the absolute joy and powerful satisfaction that arises in joining others to make good things happen. There is a distinctive energy that drives projects and unleashes incalculable volunteer hours to reach an objective. Not surprisingly, there is immense fulfillment in success, even when measurable success has not been reached. Amazement and magic are embedded in the action itself. 

As a parent of a son in San Francisco Waldorf School and later Lick-Wilmerding High School, involvement in fundraisers, special programs and volunteer work was always a thrilling part of my life. The work in church, creating programs, social events, and fundraisers were great fun! In fact, I have repeated that my “unpaid work” was my favorite and most interesting. 

All this fun eventually led to an extraordinary opportunity in philanthropy as Executive Director of the Sam Mazza Foundation, headquartered in Pacifica, CA. Being in a close working relationship with a gentleman who had wealth beyond his needs, all the experiences of a lifetime came to bear. It became obvious that this wealth is energy and can create not only legacy but make a difference for many people for many years to come. Through the Sam Mazza Foundation, our board facilitates giving, funds projects through grant making, supports non-profit fundraising, lobbies for legislation that supports philanthropy and interacts with a multitude of creative thinkers, artists, educators and “doers” that serve communities, that show the love, and that “get it done”. Through my work I am awestruck, often moved to tears, thrilled to death and grateful beyond measure. 

Note: The Sam Mazza Foundation honors Waldorf Education and has granted funds in support of the San Francisco Waldorf High School, The George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science, Credo School of Arts, Letters and Sciences, Rudolf Steiner College, The Kitch Scholars Program, The Sacramento Waldorf School and the Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

Jeanette Cool is the Executive Director of The Sam Mazza Foundation and the mother of SFWS Alumnus Dorian Jamal Cool, Grade School Class of 1995, who is profiled on the opposite page.