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TIME TO SAY THANKS TO THE DESERVING.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

Philanthropy is a big, fancy word for a very simple idea: Do something nice for someone else.

And when someone does something nice or kind for others, say thank you.

That's what today - National Philanthropy Day Los Angeles - is all about: saying thanks to a lot of people doing great things out there.

Don't let the big, fancy word throw you off. The day's not about fat cats writing out big checks they'll never miss, or corporate CEOs with a healthy charity budget to dole out.

It's about teens like 15-year-old Robyn Strumpf of Northridge, who started a literacy program for other kids having a tough time learning to read, just like she did growing up.

It's about seniors like 89-year-old Gladys Hamilton, who's ridden the bus every morning for the last 13 years so she can do her volunteer work at the Foundation for the Junior Blind.

It's about a whole bunch of people cutting across cultural, financial and every other demographic line you can think of having breakfast together today at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to celebrate the 15th annual National Philanthropy Day Los Angeles.

``We've invited every nonprofit organization in the city, and are expecting more than 1,200 people,'' said Karen Schneider of Sherman Oaks, chairwoman of the event.

``It's a chance for the little guys to meet the big guys, charities to meet funders, and a lot of people to say thank you to each other,'' she said.

At the top of that list is an attorney named Doug Freeman, who started the whole thing when he wrote a letter back in 1981 to then-Attorney General Ed Meese.

Freeman figured that not enough people were saying thank you to all the donors and volunteers being so generous with their money and time.

Oh, we say it on a small scale to the people we know who give to our schools, churches and synagogues, but what about all the philanthropists we don't know?

How do we say thank you to them? How about a National Philanthropy Day, Freeman thought.

``I wrote him (Meese) cold turkey, and he wrote me back outlining what I would have to do, including putting together a prestigious national board, and start lobbying Congress,'' he said.

Now, you would think it wouldn't take very long for the politicians to jump on the bandwagon of a good idea like this, but you'd be wrong.

``It took me five years to officially say thank you,'' Freeman said, laughing. ``It was easier to get National Groundhog Day. The biggest hang-up was getting Congress' attention.''

But by 1986, he finally had it, along with a National Philanthropy Day declaration by then-President Ronald Reagan. It's taken almost 16 years, but every state has now signed on to the idea and will hold a National Philanthropy Day this month.

Hard work and a lot of national charitable pride has shrunk that big, fancy word ``philanthropy'' down to family size, Freeman says.

``By far, the greatest philanthropy I've found out there comes from children,'' he said. ``They give with unrestricted love, which is the purest form of philanthropy.''

You find a sample of it with the Strumpf family in Northridge, with Susan and Jeff Strumpf who took turns every night sitting and reading with their then 12-year-old daughter, Robyn, who was failing reading in school.

``I'd sit with my mom or dad, and we'd be wrapped in a warm, comfy quilt, reading a book together,'' said Robyn, now 15.

The combination clicked, and before long, she became an avid reader, developing her own literacy program for kids having a tough time reading.

``I contacted bookstores, publishers, quilt shops and fabric manufacturers, explaining what I wanted to do,'' Robyn said.

From that, ``Project Books and Blankies,'' was born. To date, Robyn has donated thousands of quilts and books to literacy programs, classrooms and the needy throughout Los Angeles promoting reading among children.

Her efforts won her California's top middle school volunteer last year from the prestigious 2000 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and she has won dozens of other accolades for her literacy program.

And today, she gets one more on National Philanthropy Day - a big fancy name for a simple idea our moms taught us.

When someone does something nice or kind for others, you say thank you.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Robyn Strumpf, left, founder of Project Books and Blankies, will be honored at a National Philanthropy Day Los Angeles breakfast today, an event Karen Schneider, right, is helping organize.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 15, 2001
Words:759
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