Danielle Minson — How You Help
Why I Give: For Our Kids
Why does Vallie Freeman give and volunteer in the Jewish community?
We are asking people in Cincinnati’s Jewish community to share why they give. Here, we ask longtime volunteer and donor Vallie Freeman. Freeman lives in Mt. Lookout with her husband and their two children.
Danielle Minson: Fundamentally, why do you give and volunteer in the Jewish community?
Vallie Freeman: I give because I have been given so much in my life, especially by the Cincinnati Jewish community, and my family, and I feel like there are so many people who haven’t been as lucky as I have. I also want to show my kids that that no matter what your situation is, you always have something to give and that it makes you feel good to help other people. And you never know what’s going to happen in your life, and hopefully those people would be there for you if you needed it. But ultimately, we just think it’s important to show our kids that we need to help other people and stand up for the community.
What is something the community has given to you?
There are many examples, but I’ll mention two. When I moved back to Cincinnati and was embarking on a new career I was so lucky to find JVS Career Services. They gave me the direction and confidence I needed in my job search and I knew they were in my corner when I needed them. I was so happy to find a way, through our legacy gift, that we could help ensure JVS Career Services will be around to help future generations.
Rockwern Academy has been an amazing institution for our family that we never knew we needed. We initially thought of Rockwern as a preschool option, but the combination of the religious/secular education and the community atmosphere has been overwhelmingly positive and our kids continue to attend. It’s truly a wonderful place with caring teachers, and I am so grateful to see my kids growing into such self-assured people who are “oh so proud to be me”—their yoga class mantra [laughs]. In addition, although my husband converted to Judaism a few years ago, we were an interfaith family when we started and Rockwern was inclusive and very supportive.
What made you decide to start giving back? Is there one moment or anecdote you could share?
There wasn’t an exact moment, but after taking part in the Federation’s Planning and Allocations process I had a better understanding for how funds are used to support the community, and my giving decisions became more personal and deliberate.
Did you and your husband talk through sharing giving with your children, or did it more happen naturally?
In general Chris and I like to find ways to incorporate our kids into the activities we are doing, but since they aren’t old enough to do all the things we do, we have to get creative—i.e. ask other families for advice [laughs]. One example is that we try to dedicate one night of Hanukah to giving back. So far this has mostly meant having our kids choose where they want to give the tzedakah they collected over the year. Our kids get excited when they make donations and it’s fun to use that time as a way to explain the importance of giving back.
How does it feel to share the value of giving with your children?
One time I was trying to explain to our kids why we were bringing food for a food drive at Rockwern and I mentioned that the food was for people who didn’t have any and they responded by asking “Why don’t they go to the store to get some more?” This made me realize how fortunate we are, and it also that we needed to do more to help our kids understand not only why we give, but also the impact we can have.
Is there a story you can share about sharing giving with your children?
This year, I got to bring my six-year-old to an event put on by the Federation’s Woman’s Philanthropy at the Barbash Vital Services food pantry [Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry] where we compiled all the supplies to throw a birthday party into “birthday boxes” to give to children whose families may not have been able to afford a party otherwise. We all had fun working together, but it was really neat to see how proud the kids were to be able to help out alongside their parents.
Vallie Freeman volunteers at Rockwern Academy, and has been a Council Member of the Planning and Allocations committee of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati since 2014, cochairing the Discovering Council for two of those years. She is a JVS Career Services board member, and has been Secretary of the Board there since May. She has also served on the JCC Adams Classic Planning Committee as Raffle Chair.
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