We need to celebrate altruism more. But it is not a one-way street.
Nothing is a totally selfless act. No one does anything without motivation. Givers give. They have to give. It’s who they are.
Givers bless us with their caring spirits, their warm hearts and their compassionate natures. But they are all muscles that need to be exercised.
Jolyn Foltz is a giver. The 33-year-old South Lebanon native harbors a need to give, and through it, she has created a win-win-win situation that goes by the name of Give Forward Lebanon.
“I’m getting a front-row seat to see people in our community help others,” said Foltz. “That fills my heart. If I didn’t do anything about it, I’d be constantly thinking, ‘What should I be doing?’ I’d feel I’d be neglecting something. Christians are called to go out and be the church in their communities, especially in times like these. It’s rewarding for me.”
For Foltz, it’s all about seeing a need and filling it.
“Don’t wait for someone else to do it because they might be waiting for you to do it. I think things happen for a reason.”
So Give Forward Lebanon is a win for Foltz. But it’s also a win for other Lebanon County residents and local restaurants which have been adversely affected by the on-going crisis.
Give Forward Lebanon is an initiative set up by Foltz and manifested through a page on Facebook. Kind-hearted Lebanon County residents are asked to contact their favorite participating local restaurants and pay for a meal, a sandwich or a pizza for a fellow county resident who might be in need.
Once that first step is completed, the restaurants post on the Give Forward Lebanon Facebook page through Foltz about the availability of the food. Local residents in need can pick up the food, or in some instances even have it delivered, at no cost to them.
“It’s something I started to help local residents and local restaurants during this tough time,” said Foltz. “I felt like I really wanted to support local restaurants, but I didn’t want to eat take-out every night. I was just looking to help people. It’s kind of like ‘pay it forward’. It’s a way to connect those two things.”
The Facebook page, Foltz said, is the central hub of the operation.
“It’s acting as a communicative tool for all of this. People who are interested can call the restaurants, pay for food, donate it and then the restaurant will post that,” she said. “Then I share it so people can see what’s available. Some people might not have transportation to pick it up, so we’ve even started delivering it.”
Give Forward Lebanon is still in its infancy.
Foltz started the service on March 28, almost two weeks into the stay-at-home directive. Currently, Give Forward Lebanon’s Facebook page has about 150 followers, but some of its posts have reached up to 6,000 people.
Part of Foltz’s current mission is just getting others to know about it.
“It’s going great,” said Foltz. “It’s starting to gain more momentum. It’s exciting to see. In two weeks, we’ve had a lot of people donating and a lot of people picking up. We’re trying to get the word out at this point. It’s cool to see people pay for food they’re not going to eat. It’s been a lot of people stepping up to help neighbors.”
Foltz said she only expects the initiative to grow during this time of crisis.
“The goal is just to make an impact. If we could help a restaurant make the sales it needs to stay in business, it’s a win. It’s not a long-term thing. It’s a short-term way to meet needs,” Foltz said. “If we can feed our neighbors, we’ve achieved our goal.”
Foltz said that local donors and restaurants have stepped up in response to the initiative. The obvious need, while always present locally, has been multiplied by lay-offs and furloughs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The businesses have been enthusiastic and appreciative,” said Foltz. “I reached out to a number of restaurants initially. Many of them responded, saying they wanted to participate. They’ve been really appreciative of the effort.”
Foltz said food pantries are seeing increases in their requests.
“I know many people are laid off, and even the restaurants who are participating have laid off employees. People who lost their jobs or were laid off are having a tough time navigating their bills,” she said. “For the people who are paying for the food, it makes them feel rewarded. It makes them feel they’ve had an impact. It’s an effort for the community, by the community.”
For Foltz, the most rewarding element of Give Forward Lebanon may also be its most challenging.
“I think the best part of it is the collaboration,” said Foltz. “Just seeing how all these people are sharing roles. People buying food, people making the food, people picking up the food. Everyone is seeing an important role and it’s cool to see everyone coming together.”
The hardest part, however, has been implementation.
“We want to make sure we get the word out, so people can claim their food,” she said. “It goes back to that collaboration and people doing what they can.”
Foltz attends the non-denominational Lives Changed By Christ church in Lebanon, and was inspired by the church’s See a Need, Fill a Need initiative. She and her husband have also launched a nonprofit designed to provide safe and affordable housing for young adults coming out of foster care.
“I just want to be a good neighbor,” said Foltz. “I’m a Christian. To me, my responsibility is to show love to others. I just want to help.
“This is completely unprecedented for us,” concluded Foltz. “This was started because the coronavirus created a need. We definitely had to think outside of the box during uncertain circumstances. How long we do it will depend on how the situation progresses. It is my hope that the need will go away.”
There are few things more blessed than giving.
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