"If I include you in my will, you won't give it all away to some charity, will you?" I paused when I heard that from my father, wondering about the basis for his concern. In a split second, a million thoughts raced through my head.

He didn't caution me about using the money on gambling, blowing it all on risky investments or buying a sporty new car. What does he have against charities?

Our family has always given to others. Some of my earliest memories are of working with my grandmother as she visited low-income tenants of the residences she managed. Before collecting rents, we stopped off at a couple grocery stores and picked up wooden crates of fruits and vegetables.

Grandma Chu opened the trunk of her car as soon as she arrived at the homes to pick up rent. The colorful display of produce was haphazardly displayed, but the aroma was enticing. The tenants came to the car smiling, ready to pick up some fresh food and pay the rent. All were welcome, even if they hadn't been able to cobble together the full amount owed. But, this wasn't charity. It was a show of respect.

My family always cooked for an army and we were free to invite others to eat at our table. And if someone had nowhere else to go, there was always a couch or a sleeping bag at the ready. This was business as usual for our family. But this wasn't charity.

Seventeen years ago I heard about a new organization: Women in Northfield Giving Support, WINGS. I was inspired by pooling our money together for change. My days of being a checkbook giver were gone forever. I don't need to do this alone.


As a group, WINGS members have given nearly $900,000 into the community, to benefit women and youth in just 17 years. In addition, the members can rely on their endowment of more than $625,000 to continue providing support in the years to come.

Grant recipients have provided dental care to children, taught enrichment activities to multilingual childcare givers, provided a space for middle school students to hang out, supported artistic activities for developmentally disabled youth, and given guidance and housing to victims of abuse. One grant recipient made fresh produce available to those who may go without.

I told Dad about my involvement in WINGS and that I plan to use my assets to show respect for my neighbors. I will use it to make the lives of everyone around us better. He said, "Good. That's what I want."

Call it what you will, but in our family, this is not charity.

Jacqueline A. Dorsey is an attorney and has an office in Northfield. She is president of WINGS (Women in Northfield Giving Support), which has nearly 300 members. wings-mn.org

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