Jim Kaniclides has been donating generously to Kupenda for the past 10 years and his company, Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon, has doubled thousands of those dollars to support our children in Kenya. Jim’s wife, Gayle, and daughter, Melina, have also been sponsoring one of our children in Kenya since 2018.
Last month, I talked with Jim about what inspires him to support Kupenda and was impressed to learn that his generosity goes far beyond writing a check. As you’ll see, Jim’s giving philosophies developed through his mother’s example, which he’s now passing down to his own children through giving, volunteer work, and even starting a nonprofit.
We hope Jim’s story will inspire and encourage you during these challenging times, as it has us.
Why did you start giving to Kupenda?
Jim: When I first started giving to charitable organizations I chose a diverse group that supported a variety of needs and causes. They were all impressive organizations doing terrific work but I wanted to focus more on something I was passionate about. Then someone challenged me with a very simple question: “When learning about the activities and stories of these organizations, which of them stir an emotional response?” They answer was easy – those serving children. And then Kupenda was an easy choice – I love the work they do creating confidence and self-worth in children that have been marginalized and even abandoned by their own communities.
How did you start giving through the BNY Mellon Employee Match Program?
Jim: BNY Mellon has always encouraged employees to give back; they have invested in technology to facilitate employee giving and they’ve also invested corporate funds in the form of matching donations. The mechanics are simple – through our online platform employees choose their organizations and their payroll deduction amounts and then allocate the company’s matching donation, which is currently up to $5,000 per year. I suspect many companies have similar matching programs and it’s a tremendous way to stretch the impacts of personal giving.
What inspires you to give to Kupenda?
Jim: My desire to support children is likely due to the influence of my mom, who has been involved with overseas mission work for most of her life. She worked as a pediatric nurse in the U.S. and she was always taking trips all over the world. As a kid I remember her going on medical mission trips to the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Haiti and Mexico. Her trips largely centered on helping children and she’s influenced me in the same way that I hope to influence my kids.
How have you been helping your children to develop these values?
Jim: I have two daughters and a son and I hope to help them understand how blessed they are and the importance of giving something back to those less fortunate. Our Christian faith teaches the importance of helping others and I believe that’s not just with money. I once heard a pastor say that helping others should not just be about writing checks but that it should also be about giving our time. I think that’s actually harder for most of us – we’re all so busy that time has become a very scarce resource. I’d like to show my kids the joy of giving so it will become a habit and priority in their lives.
One way I’ve tried to teach this to them is through local volunteer work as a family. More recently I’ve challenged my daughters to help their grandma with the work she’s doing in Uganda to care for orphaned children. We’re now working together to establish a nonprofit and my daughters are planning to form a club at their high school in the Fall that will explore ways to help. It’s a neat opportunity for multiple generations in our family to work together on this project.
What advice would you give to other parents who want to instill these values in their children?
Jim: I would challenge parents to find some way to volunteer as a family. Between work, school, sports, family commitments, etc. it can be daunting to make time. But even if only a few times a year, find a local food bank or soup kitchen and give your children the opportunity to see the people being served by that organization. You may be very surprised at their reaction to the experience.
My daughters and I have volunteered at a food pantry and toy drives for a number of years. It was amazing to see their reactions when meeting parents and children at the toy drive. My oldest daughter cried when a little girl she was talking to at a Christmas toy drive told her she was homeless. And I watched my shy younger daughter step up and take charge when she saw a need to help some parents.
What has inspired you to keep giving to Kupenda all these years?
Jim: Many people ask why God doesn’t do something to solve so many of the world’s tragic problems. And then some people use the existence of these problems to doubt the very existence of God. What if He has already done something? What if His solution has always been to give so many of us the resources to solve these problems? And maybe our response to these problems is an opportunity to demonstrate the very existence of God.
That probably sounds a bit altruistic, but if I’m being honest, there’s also a selfish component for me. For everyone who gives money or time to a cause that they’re passionate about, there’s a great deal of joy, fulfillment and, dare I say, even pride. I’ve wondered at times if I get more out of it than the people I’m supposed to be helping.
Jim and his family are now working together to start a nonprofit in Uganda that will build on his mother’s legacy of work there to provide former child soldiers with basic needs of food, shelter and health care.
Learn about ways kids can get involved in helping others and supporting Kupenda’s work here.
Learn about employee giving and match programs here.
Learn more about our Coronavirus response efforts here.