I Support ThinkGive Because It Changed the Culture in My Classrooms

Polly Vanasse was the first educator to pilot ThinkGive and generously donates annually.

How did you first learn about ThinkGive?
ThinkGive’s co-founders, Penny Austen and Molly Constable, came to my classroom 11 years ago offering ThinkGive. This gem of an idea was just what I needed with my class of high-achieving, determined young women who were always at their best when giving to others and not so great when competing against each other!

What a privilege it was to pilot ThinkGive; students were completely engaged in the lessons. Several of them spoke at graduation a year later about what they had learned and how they had felt after ThinkGive:

  • “I was inspired by my classmates, those who were close friends and those who were not, and I learned important things about those classmates by the gifts they gave. My relationships were forever changed.”
  • “I am motivated to choose kindness because it actually makes me happier.”
  • “I’m starting to notice good in a world that often has seemed cruel.”

For many, it was the first time they felt they had something worthwhile to contribute to the world—because small gifts matter.

Can you share another story about teaching ThinkGive?
Four years later, I took ThinkGive to my new job, establishing a middle school. We desperately needed a program to unite these 5th-8th grade students. ThinkGive fit the bill, and a significant ripple effect occurred.

On Day 9 of the program, my colleague Andy returned from lunch with a huge smile. The call that morning had been to give “a gift to a stranger.” Andy had run home to meet a plumber, and he brought the man a sandwich and a cold drink. The plumber asked why in the world he would do that for a stranger who charged $100 an hour, and Andy explained a bit about ThinkGive.

It turns out that the plumber and his wife had a side gig making bags of food to distribute to people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge. The plumber wondered if our class would like to get involved. It was serendipity! Many bake sales and food drives later, our kids came together to make hundreds of care packages and spread their kindness farther into the community.

At graduation that year, one young man observed that the ripple effect made him see the profound power of small acts. It was up to us, he said, to ensure that those acts were kind and generous.