Giving: Generosity in Columbus Takes Many Forms

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” These Central Ohioans are finding unique and creative ways to help meet community needs.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
Helping Hands

The crises of 2020—a global pandemic, a national uprising over racial injustice—did not end in 2021. Even with the arrival of vaccines, the scourge of COVID-19 continues, leaving a legacy of sacrifice and loss; 18 months after George Floyd's murder, activists struggle to keep public attention and actions focused on issues of equity. 

But the generosity and creativity these crises inspired continues as well. And it’s a good thing, because need is still great throughout the community. “While much of Central Ohio is in recovery mode,” United Way CEO Lisa Courtice wrote in August, referring to pandemic-related hardships, “many families are nowhere near recovering what they lost.” And a disproportionately high rate of COVID-19 in the Black community has heightened racial disparities in ways that are only gradually becoming clear. 

Just as the needs are extraordinary, so is the generosity of Central Ohioans. The Columbus Foundation distributed a record $231 million in grants to more than 4,500 local organizations last year, thanks to the gifts of its donors; at its annual Big Give event in June 2021, more than 20,000 people contributed $32.4 million for Central Ohio nonprofits. 

In the past, Giving has sometimes featured local philanthropists who support the community with gifts of money, both large and small. This year, we are casting the net a little wider to bring you profiles of all kinds of givers—folks who pitched in to join the fight for community well-being by activating not only their checkbooks—although that is important—but also their minds, their hearts, their skills, their hands, their friendships and their creativity. 

In the following stories, you’ll read about a young woman who, thanks to her workplace volunteer program, moved from uncertain where to begin to actively involved in two dozen civic projects; a group of high school friends who, 15 years after graduation, joined together to amplify their impact by creating a group fund aimed at providing support for families in need; a local creative who rallied artists and funders to cover public walls throughout the city with messages aimed at moving the needle on racial equity; and a young woman who has returned to her high school as a City Year Columbus AmeriCorps member to offer students some of the assistance she found scarce when she was growing up. 

We hope the stories of these creative, big-hearted individuals will uplift and inspire you—and maybe even help you to find your own unique way of giving.

Westerville North High School Classmates Join Together in Philanthropy

Donny Murray, pictured here with wife Britney Peters Murray

High school classmates tend to drift apart as the years roll on following graduation. Hoping to avoid that fate, a group of friends from the Westerville North High School class of 2005 came up with a unique way not only to stay connected but to make a difference together. (read more)

Besa Helps Amanda Wilson Find Volunteer Opportunities

Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson has always had the will and desire to give back, but hasn’t always known how. Thanks to her job and its affiliation with a community hub for volunteerism, she has found many ways. (read more)

Sabrina Mosley Joined City Year Columbus to Pay it Forward

Sabrina Mosley

The former AmeriCorps volunteer, now staff member, helps students at the school she once attended. (read more)

Marshall Shorts Says Public Art Can Promote Change

Marshall Shorts

The Artfluential founder worked with Maroon Arts Group to create “Deliver Black Dreams.” (read more)

This story is from the 2022 issue of Giving, a supplement of Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO.