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"The Good Tired"

Judy with her dog, Benny

By: Judy Taggart

In 2009, I was working in the nonprofit sector when I was accepted into the sixth class of the Katherine Harvey Fellows, which is a leadership development program that serves local nonprofit agency. During a break at one of our first meetings, I had the pleasure of chatting with our class’ esteemed mentor, the late Peter Karoff. During our brief conversation, he posed a question to me that I was not quite sure how to answer. He asked, “When did you decide to become involved in philanthropy?” I do not recall my response at the time, but I know I tried to string together a coherent reply. I had no intention of uttering, “Gee, I have no idea,” to this brilliant man and philanthropist.

When I got home that evening, I reflected on his question for some time. “Am I a philanthropist?” I thought to myself, and, if so, “When did that happen?” My notion of a philanthropist was a generous, affluent person who makes large donations to good causes. I still had student loan debt, so I was not writing big checks to anyone but Sallie Mae. In my muddled mind, I knew there was only one thing I could do to gain clarity: Google the word “philanthropy.” As I scrolled through the definitions, I realized that I may not fit the most common definition of a “philanthropist.” However, being philanthropic was a quality that had been developing inside me since I was a child.

As a young girl, I had an intrinsic desire to be helpful. Much to the annoyance of my older sister, I was the child who offered to help mom make dinner or to mow the lawn for dad. I really didn’t mind. I enjoyed giving and I liked the way I felt after lending a hand. In fact, I liked it so much that I was just 11 years old when I signed up for my first volunteer job.

I volunteered to be a Keeper’s Aide at the Santa Barbara Zoo. As an animal lover, I gladly gave up my free time on weekends to rake pens, feed animals, and scrub all manner of exotic excrement off enclosures all over the zoo. Even though I came home exhausted and smelling like a goat, I was happy to work hard to help the animals. My mom had a special name for the feeling you get after a day spent helping others. She called it “the good tired” and it is a feeling that I continue to seek in my work today.

My philanthropic endeavors these days require more brainpower than “scrubbing power,” but, regardless of the task, I still take great pleasure in being helpful. I do not know if I will ever be the kind of philanthropist that is able to write the really big checks, but I am pleased to be involved in philanthropy by giving my time and talent. Thanks to Peter Karoff’s thought-provoking question, I recognize that I have a long history of philanthropic activity and I am looking forward to continuing to find new and exciting ways to achieve “the good tired.”

Judy Taggart is the Chief Operating Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation, where she is responsible for ensuring the organization's operations are running smoothly and align with the foundation's mission to serve Santa Barbara County.

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