As Glen Lewis sat watching footage of the devastation Hurricane Dorian had wreaked on the Bahamas, he knew he had to do something. Equally importantly, Glen -- Executive Director at Edgewater, a WesleyLife community in West Des Moines -- knew he had to make it possible for his community's residents to do something.
It didn't take Glen long to come up with an idea. The very next day, he charged Edgewater's executive council with leading the way for the campus to make a real impact, and the council members came through -- to the astounding tune of nearly $20,000, raised in only five days through resident donations.
"As I was watching the coverage, I saw that an organization called World Central Kitchen was providing these pop-ups -- essentially kitchens where they were feeding people who had lost everything," Glen recalls. "I got in touch with them and learned how we could support what they're doing. And all I did then was present the idea -- and the residents responded in an absolutely incredible way."
Barbara Henning and Anne Koth, members of the executive council at Edgewater, say as soon as Glen presented the idea, no one in the room showed even a moment's hesitation in making plans to see it through.
"The way he proposed the idea -- he had so much energy around it and made us feel a sense of urgency," Barbara says. "He asked us to think about it, and we told him, 'We don't need to think about it. We're doing this.'"
The council got to work, with Barbara writing an appeal to residents and other council members working to distribute the letters. By the end of the day the letters were distributed, the council had collected $7,000 toward the effort. Then, says Anne, "it just took off from there."
"It's as though the joy of giving just became contagious," Anne says. "The effort was not designed to benefit us, of course -- but the feelings that were generated by the act of giving benefited all of us. We were united in a feeling of gratitude for the roof over our heads and the food that is so easily available to us, and with the need to help care for these individuals who had nothing."
Glen says although he was "blown away" by the total amount raised -- $19.025 -- he was not at all surprised that the residents responded in the way they did.
"Their spirit of generosity always inspires me," he says. "These are people who, to some degree, have practiced philanthropy for much of their lives. They are people who simply care about other people, and they feel a deep need to share what they have to contribute in a positive way to the world they live in. I have the responsibility to continue to make it possible for them to do that."
Glen says Edgewater's global philanthropic efforts won't stop after the World Central Kitchen receives its donation.
"My goal for Edgewater is to continue to encourage connections to the greater community, and not just Des Moines," he says. "Just as John Wesley charged us with doing all the good we can for all the people we can, we'll continue to seek that interconnectivity and ways to leave the world a better place than we found it."