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I don’t even remember the initial reason I made the phone call. I think I was applying for a free and reduced school lunch program. The woman on the other end of the line said “You know you would qualify for food assistance, right?”
Suddenly I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a long time. Now, I could feed my kids without worrying about where the next dollar would come from. I didn’t need to hussle by selling things I found on the side of the road to get them a meal. I could have more than just cottage cheese and sauerkraut in the fridge. The woman on the other end of the line walked me through the process of getting an EBT card. She also helped with next steps for other assistance I could get for my kids. I could breathe a sigh of relief.
This was not where I expected to end up as an adult. I had grown up on the “right” side of the tracks, firmly middle class. I went to high school where the rich kids went. However, I had an uneducated idea of the kind of people that received government assistance. I believed they must be lazy, mooching off the system. I had been blissfully unaware of the struggles many people go through to provide for their families. That moment on the phone years later entirely changed my perspective.
I still vividly remember walking into the grocery store with my EBT card for the first time. As I walked down the aisles, I added up the cost in my head as I checked each item off my list. As I was wrapping up, I realized I had enough left over to buy each of my kids their favorite treat. I stood in the candy aisle bawling with gratitude.
The next few years were not easy. Our family bounced from place to place. All five of us sharing one bedroom, a basement, or a tent for several months at a time. We relied on the kindness of others and our EBT card to get the things we needed until we could stabilize our financial situation. What mattered was that we loved each other, we joked with each other, and my kids continued to grow.
Fast forward several years and I was now employed full time by Backyard Bookkeeper in a leadership position. I had the opportunity to attend a training put on by ChamberWest called Service in Leadership. Several speakers in a row stood up and talked about their non-profit organizations and who they help. Stories came up about homelessness, kids struggling in school, hunger, and more. My mind went back to my own experiences with those issues. It went back to the day my kids came home from school with new clothes donated by anonymous sources, to Christmas gifts left on our porch, to brand new backpacks with school supplies, and my kids, ecstatic at each of those experiences. My emotions were in full force.
Our afternoon with ChamberWest brought us to a service project where we helped stuff backpacks with school supplies. These were the very same kinds of backpacks my kids had received back when they needed them. That full circle experience of stuffing backpacks just like the ones I had excitedly unstuffed years before gave me such gratitude.
I realized that even though things are so much better now, I get caught up in my current stress and struggles. I need to take a step back to appreciate how far I’ve come AND remember there are many others still in the situations I used to be in.
My employer, Backyard Bookkeeper, has been in business over fifteen years. Over that time they have developed relationships with many nonprofits. We do their bookkeeping and we help them with many important causes. In my role at the company, I’m very careful to ensure that our bookkeepers have the training necessary to do non-profit bookkeeping appropriately and ensure these organizations are audit ready. I try to work with them to ensure good communication is happening with the people running the foundations. But I realized recently I have neglected the most important part of our relationship with non-profits: the WHY.
These organizations work hard to provide services that our community desperately needs. When we work together, we need to move past the data entry, reconciliations, and downloading statements. We need to do more than just check off tasks and go back to the most important thing. We are helping these organizations because they are helping others.
Beyond providing accounting services, we work hard to give back to the community. Backyard Bookkeeper believes strongly in the value of service, both within our company and outside of it. We take great care of our employees and do everything we can to ensure their well-being, from perks and continuing education to sponsoring kids’ sports teams and organizing family pizza nights. We also organize company service projects, such as when we collected a car full of donations for NavajoStrong, a nonprofit founded when Covid hit the Navajo nation in a major way. Backyard Bookkeeper also donated over 200 packed backpacks for kids in need of school supplies. We also work with Village Book Builders, a nonprofit that builds libraries in third world countries, and Utahns Against Hunger, who champions food access for low income families and children closer to home. And these are just a few of many!
Our company is constantly looking for ways to give back. Furthermore, my experience has inspired me to encourage us to do even more.
So here it is, a reminder of the WHY. This story is my why. I want to help, to stuff backpacks, to do an excellent job serving our nonprofit clients, because I’ve benefited from similar organizations. We help, and I help, because of that moment in the grocery store where I stood in front of my kids’ favorite treats and cried with gratitude and relief. THAT is WHY.
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