In the Know column: Giving thanks and giving back

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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By Jen Jabas, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties

This is the time of year that we celebrate so many things that we are thankful for. With the hustle and bustle of a busy fall season, it can be easy to forget to pause and appreciate the people and things that we have in our lives. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is dedicated solely to expressing appreciation for all that we have to be thankful for. Let’s take this opportunity to stop what we are doing and create a list of what we are grateful for.

Here are some things that you might have on your list:

  • Food to eat.
  • Air to breathe.
  • Water to drink.
  • Things that I own.
  • Money that I have.
  • A place to sleep at night.
  • Clothes to keep me warm.
  • A job that makes me happy.
  • Opportunities I have been given.
  • A vehicle to get from here to there.
  • People in my life who care about me.
  • Health even though it may not be perfect.
  • Ability to communicate and help others understand me.

These are just to name a few. There are so many things that we don’t even think about that allow us to live our best lives. Expressing gratitude for these things is directly related to our individual happiness as well as the happiness of others. I had the opportunity to experience this myself just last week.
United Acts of kindness was November 14-18 and gave United Way a chance to say THANK YOU for all of the ways that so many individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and community partners support the health, education and financial stability of every person in Douglas & Pope Counties. As part of two Live United luncheons, over 250 people gathered to pack 3,000 bags of food for kids over the holidays. We had the opportunity to share the testimonies and success stories of people who received supports and services through United Way that were made possible by generous donors and volunteers. If it wasn’t for the kindness and compassion of others, we wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do every day. It is because of these individuals and groups that many people in our community have access to mental health services, educational opportunities and basic needs of food, shelter and safety.

For individuals who are still in need of assistance, we will be here as a community. As temperatures drop, we will provide is shelter through Hope Haven, Food Drops and Food Shelves will continue to ensure that no one goes hungry, holiday programs will create memories for children and parents, non-profits will be there to provide much needed services, and caring community members will demonstrate random acts of kindness to our friends and neighbors. For thank I am thankful every day! I am grateful to live in a community that opens their hearts and gives of their time.


Thanksgiving may be a time that we reflect on all that we thankful for but it doesn’t have to be the only time that we are intentional about showing appreciation. Giving thanks often inspires philanthropy and can lead to giving back. We can practice the art of giving thanks and giving back every single day. So, let’s enjoy the food, the company, and even the day off from work. But, more than anything, let’s appreciate that we have so much to be thankful for…and then pay it forward by giving back to offer someone else another reason to be thankful this holiday season.

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all of the ways that our community gives back! You are appreciated and you have given hope and happiness to so many!

There are many great non-profits and programs in our community that are making a difference every day. For more information, or to get more involved, contact our office at 320-834-7800 or e-mail .

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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