Teens learn to give at philanthropy camp

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One thousand dollars is a chunk of change. A group of 29 teens at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa., learned this summer how to spend that sum wisely and philanthropically.

The Jewish camp, which is based in Rockville, was one of 38 summer camps to receive funds from Jewish Teen Funders Network to create a philanthropic foundation and disburse $1,000. The Jewish Teen Funders Network is a project of the Jewish Funders Network, an organization of family foundations, public philanthropies and individual funders.


“The teens really got into it,” said Karen Bernstein, director of development for Capital Camps. “We expected that they would be resistant at camp because it was too serious, but they really embraced it.”

In eight sessions during the five weeks of camp, the teens learned the nuts and bolts of grant making.

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“We created a mission statement, that an organization had to help the community and raise awareness,” said Amanda Spott, a 17-year-old participant from Potomac.

The mission statement was based on Jewish values and the teen philanthropists used it to evaluate four grant proposals from local community and regional Jewish nonprofits.


“It was more about the process of giving and for them to feel that the money was going to make an impact,” Bernstein said.

They weighed their choices seriously, she said. “They could have taken the easy way out and given a little to each,” Bernstein said.

“I made a chart of how much I wanted to give each group and by the end it was entirely different,” said Ben Jaffe, a 17-year-old from Rockville.

The group spent nearly three hours deliberating their choices before voting in favor of two recipients. “In the end it was really close, Amanda said.

The teens granted $300 to JCADA, the Rockville-based Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, for the purchase of “a bio-feedback tool to aid victims of domestic abuse who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bernstein explained.

They donated the remaining $700 to the Waynesboro Ambulance Squad, the camp’s local emergency first responders, to help pay for a new ambulance. “They grabbed onto the concept that they were saving a life,” a defining Jewish value, she said.

While the teens had given to charity before, the camp experience introduced them to the machinery of fundraising and philanthropy.

“I didn’t realize there were organizations that said, ‘We have this much money. Who wants it?’ ” Amanda said.

Added Ben, “I never understood how I can make an impact.”

[email protected] Twitter: @davidholzel

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