Sometimes the desire to give back feels overwhelming. Where do you start? What are the local charities? Which organizations are reputable? Which ones prefer monetary contributions and which ones desire hands-on involvement? Can I involve my children?
As a mom of three young children who are growing up in the wonderful, safe, and privileged bubble of the South Shore these questions regularly rattle around in my mind. So I decided to dig deep in exploring local charitable giving opportunities.
Some may speak to you more than others and my hope is that sharing what I learn will make the places that resonate with YOU more accessible. So, for all of the busy people who want and need a go-to list of ways to become local philanthropists, here’s the first installment of your Community Giving Cliffs Notes.
Who: Rolling Wave Foundation out of Scituate, run by Rich Bonanno
Philosophy: “The best deeds are done when no one is looking.”
Five years ago, a self-employed contractor and avid surfer in Scituate named Rich Bonanno found a broken bike on the side of the road next to a “FREE” sign. He took it home, fixed it up, and gave it to a neighborhood boy. The following day he found three more broken bikes, fixed them up and gave them to three more kids. The problem is, those three kids had a fourth friend who wanted a bike. Suddenly, his happenstance became his mission. Since then, Rich has taken in over 4,000 bikes, some from the dump or free on the side of the road, some donated used or new by people who’ve learned of his generosity and have stepped in to help.
Bonanno initially gave the bikes away to neighbors’ kids and kids in neighboring towns. He then expanded his giving to a needy Boys and Girls Club he heard about in Florida. “Bikes are freedom.” Bonanno explained. “Suddenly a kid has a way to head out and goof off with his friends – to be a kid.”
From there, his giving exploded across the country. Working with Brian McGeoghegan of Mohawk Rubber Sales and The Worthwhile Life Foundation in Hingham (who ships the donations at no cost), Bonanno starting regularly shipping bikes to impoverished areas of Florida, and to homeless men and women living in a shelter in Macon, Georgia who needed to see a way out. “For some of these homeless folks, you’re giving them a ride to work. That’s the ticket to a new life for these people.”
Bonanno further expanded his giving to disaster-stricken individuals; victims of Katrina in Louisiana, earthquake victims in Haiti, family crisis centers in Massachusetts and all across the country. “People living in the worst conditions right here in our country. I mean, you just think about how much we have and how little others have and it blows your mind.” Rich assesses the needs of these people on an individual basis and now, beyond bikes, he’s started shipping giant pallets of clothing, toys, household items, and even food.
He prefers to stay anonymous to the recipients of his kindness. All he asks in return is a picture. He posts these photos to Facebook and people get to see exactly where their donations end up. “I constantly say this, and I’m serious.” Bonanno says, “I don’t do this. WE do this. The community has been so generous. I ask for anything these people need, and this community just opens up and finds it. It’s why we can make a difference.”
Rich has recently formally named his organization the Rolling Wave Foundation, “which I just think is perfect for what we do.” “Obviously, there’s the beach connection because we’re on the water here but I asked people to help come up with our name and a local woman nailed it with our mission statement. She said, ‘A single wave is strong, yet the ocean a greater power.’”
Why I like this:
The donations given by Rolling Wave Foundation provide opportunity. Quite literally, a bike can take you places.
Most of us have extra stuff. Our children, especially, seem to outgrow their belongings before they’re out of the Amazon Prime box. Facebook yard sales are inundated with coats not needed and boots barely worn. We post them hoping that someone can USE these things. Now we know, Rich can find them a grateful new owner.
How you can help:
Get your circle involved! Rather than dreading spring cleaning, think of it as an opportunity to inspire our friends and model for our children the power we have to easily help others!
Grab a bottle of wine and offer to help your friend Marie Kondo her closet one evening (then bag up the items that may be someone ELSE’S joy!)
Ransack your playroom and the kids’ dresser drawers WITH them and then help them package up toys and clothes that are no longer needed or wanted.
Monetary donations for new bikes parts and supplies can be sent via Venmo: rolling-wave foundation
Donation items can be dropped at 109 Hollett St in Scituate (please contact Rich in advance to coordinate: text at 617-281-8372 or email firstname.lastname@example.org):
Bikes and scooters, new or used, and helmets.
Clean, sorted, and folded (this saves Rich so much time!) clothing in all sizes.
Clean, intact toys with all parts (and new batteries if needed).
Clean home goods (rugs, curtains, lamps, pillows, blankets…extras that make a house feel like a home).