Delaware is not only The First State, it may be—pound for pound, so to speak—the best state. To prove that point, for this second annual Optimism Issue the staff of Out & About put together a list of 50 ways the people, the organizations, and even the government of Delaware give back. And we’re convinced it’s only a partial list, so if you have some suggestions, feel free to drop us an email or contact us on Facebook. In the meantime, count your blessings. Here are 50 of them:
1. The Delaware Charity Challenge provides fundraising opportunities through 5K races and other athletic events in which teams vie for prize money for the charity they represent. The Challenge has helped teams collectively raise more than $150,000 for nonprofits and charities since its inception in 2015.
2. Now in its 12th year, University of Delaware’s dance marathon charity event, UDance, is the school’s largest student-run philanthropy and has raised more than $7.15 million dollars for the Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation, which supports medical research and financial assistance for families of children with cancer nationwide.
3. With roots tracing back to the 1830s, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington provides critical direct care and human services to more than 100,000 individuals and families in need, regardless of their religious affiliation.
4. The “We’ve Got You Covered” campaign, sponsored by Wilmington’s Greenhill Pharmacy, each year provides blankets to those in need. This winter, some 3,700 new blankets were distributed.
5. Since 1972, St. Patrick’s Center has provided Wilmington’s East Side with emergency food, meals, respite for the homeless, clothing, transportation, and recreational activities. The Center nourishes 1,500 families each month with help from a team of staff and volunteers.
6. The Sunday Breakfast Mission has been providing Delawareans in need with meals, shelter, and even basic medical services since 1983. This past Christmas, the Mission held a special toy store shopping event in Wilmington for families in need, and parents of more than 400 children were able to pick out toys, books and games from 2,000 gifts that were donated by the community.
7. The Ministry of Caring has provided the homeless and working poor with meaningful care and services since 1976. On Sunday, April 29, at Harry’s Ballroom, 2020 Naamans Rd., the Ministry will host the Emmanuel Dining Room Auction, which will help to feed the 180,000 visitors annually at its three sites located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Wilmington and New Castle. To register to attend the auction, purchase Grand Raffle tickets, or purchase a sponsorship, call Cindy Gamble at 516-1069.
8. The Delaware Community Foundation plays a vital role in the philanthropic scene in Delaware, allocating funds to many organizations. Last year, the foundation awarded $253,152 to 18 organizations.
9. The annual Dancing with the Delaware Stars event, now in its eighth year, took place at the Dover Downs Hotel on Jan. 27. This event benefits both Mom’s House of Wilmington, which provides free child care for single parents attending either high school or college, and the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, which offers affordable before- and after-school care for kids from kindergarten through high school. Last year’s event generated a landmark amount of almost $200,000, which was split evenly between the two organizations.
10. Dewey bartender Kacey O’Brian started “Donation Tuesday,” a weekly event at Woody’s Bar & Grill in Dewey Beach, last May. One hundred percent of the tips go to a local charity in addition to money earned from raffling local artwork. O’Brien was inspired by the special donation event held at Woody’s for the family of fallen Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen Ballard.
11. Millville Pet Stop provides owners the opportunity to have a photograph taken of their pet on “Santa Paw’s” lap at Christmas time for a $10 fee. Proceeds from the annual event help several local charities that focus on animal welfare.
12. The Ronald McDonald House provides a safe, affordable “home-away-from-home” for families of children who are undergoing serious medical treatment. Along with the house, there are Ronald McDonald family rooms in pediatric units in three Delaware hospitals.
13. The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, with the help of more than 90 volunteers, went to work this past December, planting 12,000 trees on 12 acres of land at the Perry Tract of the Angola Neck Preserve. This latest effort completes the four-year project to convert 36 acres to forested land.
14. For 14 years, Bob Reese has been running the annual “Feed the Troops” event. Last year, Reese, along with dozens of volunteers, Dover Motorsports, and the 512th Airlift Wing, hosted the annual holiday dinner in Hangar 792 for dayshift and nightshift personnel at Dover Air Force Base.
15. John Walsh, of Lewes, last November received the AARP Andrus Award for his volunteer work on behalf of senior Delawareans. Walsh has spent his retirement helping the elderly as an AARP advocacy volunteer and has been effective in moving legislation on various issues, including manufactured housing, caregiving, transportation, and other issues senior Delawareans face.
16. The Plantation Lakes community of Millsboro last year raised $4,700 for local breast cancer programs and services and donated it to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, which since 1991 has been at the forefront in addressing issues women of Delaware face regarding breast cancer.
17. Priya Jayakumar, a ninth grader from Bear, started Charity Crossing two years ago with her family. This winter, Charity Crossing provided socks for those in need. Priya raised awareness about this issue by having Feb. 14 recognized as “Socks for the Homeless” day in Delaware.
18. Middletown’s Kevin Schatz has made volunteering the main objective of his local brewery, aptly named Volunteer Brewing Company. The staff and customers are engaged in volunteer opportunities, with the goal of improving their town and maintaining the small town feel so many associate with Middletown.
19. The annual Best of Delaware party, set for Aug. 2 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, will raise funds for worthy local causes while at the same time celebrating people, places, services and restaurants that have received the esteemed Best of Delaware award. Order tickets at delawaretoday.com for $60, or purchase them at the door for $75.
20. Southern Delaware’s nonprofit organization Next Gen last year held a Chow Down for Charity Dinner that raised some $12,000 for three youth organizations dealing with addiction prevention, active addiction treatment and reentry into society.
21. Competing for a cause, and not just a trophy, is the slogan of the Cheer for Charity event that is coming to Newark on March 18. This regional competition for young cheerleaders got its start in Delaware in 2006, and since then it has raised more than $310,000 for the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
22. Founded in 1946, the United Way of Delaware (UWDE) has a mission of advancing the common good by focusing on the strategic areas of early education, college, career readiness, and financial stability. This past year the UWDE exceeded its $1.2 million year-end goal by raising more than $1.4 million.
23. Operation Warm is a program run by Wilmington Firefighters Association Local 1590. They work with the community to raise money to purchase new, American-made coats for children in need. They not only help local children, but also contribute to saving jobs and supporting American businesses.
24. Through a federal grant, the Delaware Forest Service offers up to $40,000 each year to communities throughout the state for tree planting, tree care, and tree management. The program is dedicated to enhancing Delaware’s community forests, which play a critical role in our quality of life. More at delawaretrees.com.
25. The IN Wilmington Campaign co-hosts an annual “INtheSpirit” holiday party with co-working space The Mill. Last year, 10 local restaurants and breweries, more than 20 area artists and musicians, and 250 community members joined in to help 32 needy Wilmington children/families and to highlight arts talent in Wilmington. Overall, the event provided 104 presents, gift cards and financial contributions totaling more than $1,000 for families in need.
26. Mélomanie—known for musical “provocative pairings”—also pairs with charities to expand community experiences and to provide for those in need. For the past two years, Mélomanie has contributed two-week music classes to middle and high school students of UrbanPromise. To benefit the Sunday Breakfast Mission and Friendship House, the ensemble invited audience members to contribute gloves and hats for residents in exchange for free admission to a winter concert.
27. The Delaware State Employee Art Exhibition is an annual free event designed to give artists at all skill levels a unique opportunity to exhibit their creative work and to compete for cash prizes. All participants are current employees of the State of Delaware, or immediate family members. This year’s exhibition will be at Delaware State University Art Center/Gallery, Dover, from Feb. 26-March 19. The awards ceremony and reception will be on Sunday, March 18, from 1-3 p.m. For more information, visit arts.delaware.gov.
28. Jonathan W. Whitney joined the Delaware Art Museum last July in a newly created position to foster and grow community engagement in and around the Museum. His role is to produce Connected, a free program series that features events produced by and for the community. Past events included art therapy with people affected by cancer, and a special program called “Portraits of Wilmington,” where artists drew more than 40 portraits of Wilmingtonians from all walks of life. For more information, visit delart.org.
29. C.E.R.T.S., Inc. was founded to support young adults with multiple severe disabilities through an active, movement-oriented day program. In addition to its physical and occupational therapies, it offers art therapy, through Art Therapy Express, whose therapists provide hands-on sessions and use specialty molded tools made by University of Delaware students in the Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Department. The students created arm splints and rollers to provide maximum support and promote independent art expression. For more information, visit arttherapyexpress.wordpress.com.
30. Delaware has approximately 506 miles of public trails and multi-use pathways, thanks to state and county initiatives.
31. In 2017, Delaware Wild Lands (DWL) planted 21,000 trees in the Great Cypress Swamp in Frankford. Since 2011, as part of DWL’s sustainable forest management program, 194,000 trees have been planted and 160 acres have been added to the swamp.
32. Delaware Nature Society, dedicated to protecting and enhancing natural biodiversity and environmental education, manages more than 1,850 acres of land in Delaware and southeast Pennsylvania and protects more than 100,000 acres. Plus, volunteers contribute 20,000 hours of work annually.
33. Over the years, Delaware Wild Lands has done wetlands restoration work in all three counties. The latest project at Milford Neck in Kent County is known as “Deadwoods” because saltwater killed a distinctive stand of old trees there. However, DWL’s restoration work expanded freshwater wetlands and made these 12 acres more resistant to future saltwater intrusion.
34. The Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway is in the process of becoming a National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat Community. The Byway comprises 28 secondary roads within the Red Clay Creek watershed and is the first in the U.S. to be based on the watershed model. If you own a home, business, or other land within the Byway, then making your land a Certified Wildlife Habitat will help achieve this goal.
35. Last summer, Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park saw 700 visitors per day on weekends and 500 on weekdays. Combined with other area trails, the Gordons Pond Trail figures prominently in the evolving 15-mile regional trail system between Lewes and Rehoboth. Last fall, the trail became a prime location for birders, too, according to DNREC and Delaware State Parks.
36. Construction is underway on the Assawoman Canal Trail in Ocean View. When finished, the one-mile long trail will link Route 26, Central Avenue and Elliott Avenue in Ocean View, providing new recreational trail opportunities for biking and walking. More important, the trail is part of a regional trail, pathway and sidewalk network linking ocean-area roads.
37. There are currently 111,400 food insecure Delawareans, a number volunteers, contributions and the Food Bank has helped lower over the past few years. The Food Bank is currently serving 4,201 meals each week through its After-School Meal Program for kids. In 2017, it distributed 7.7 million pounds of food throughout the state—an increase of 604,000 pounds.
38. Delaware restaurateurs, in collaboration with the Delaware Restaurant Association, are helping to develop the culinary leaders of tomorrow through the Delaware ProStart Program (a culinary and management education initiative for high school students). The program is largely funded through grants, donations and sponsorships. Currently, 18 high schools in the state are participating.
39. The Delaware restaurants and foodservice companies currently provide 49,200 jobs in Delaware, accounting for 11 percent of the employment in the state. Ninety percent of these businesses engage in some type of charitable activity, resulting in tens of millions of dollars pumped back into the local community.
40. The revamped Slam Dunk to the Beach debuted four years ago and has grown ever since, becoming one of the state’s premier sporting events. Says Dr. Matt Robinson, chairman of the Delaware Sports Commission. “Sports is an important and expanding segment of the tourism industry in Delaware. Since 2009 the events DSC has worked with have generated more than $60 million in economic impact.”
41. The Wilmington Grand Prix has been named to USA Cycling’s national calendar for the 11th straight year and will bring an international cycling field to Downtown Wilmington May 18-20. The event has generated more than $3.5 million since 2012.
42. The Buccini/Pollin Group is scheduled to build a 140,000-square-foot, 2,500-seat multipurpose sports complex and youth training center near U.S. 13 and Garasches Lane on the east side of the Christina River. The facility, to be called the 76ers Fieldhouse, will be home for the 87ers basketball team, a 76ers minor league affiliate, and will provide athletic training opportunities to the area’s underserved youth.
43. On Jan. 20, for the second year in a row, the Beau Biden Foundation partnered with the Delaware 87’ers for a night of basketball, safety, and fun at the Bob Carpenter Center as the Sevens took on the Erie BayHawks. The Sevens showed their support for the Foundation and the protection of children by wearing Beau Biden Foundation jerseys. Some 500 kids got a Beau Biden Foundation basketball, and the Foundation received a portion of ticket sales.
44. Some 800 volunteers serve on a rotation schedule on 65 delivery routes each day for City Fare, one of five meal delivery programs run by Meals On Wheels Delaware (MOWD). Last year, City Fare delivered about 300,000 meals throughout Wilmington and New Castle County. Statewide, MOWD delivered 727,418 meals to 4,093 seniors ages 60 and over in 2016.
45. Dogfish Head Brewery annually donates an estimated $500,000 to more than 200 groups through financial sponsorships, donated beer, the Dogfish Dash and other special events. Its tasting room and tour team will give away their tips from 2017 (in excess of $50,000) to more than a dozen non-profits.
46. The state continues to give back to its citizenry through its Greenways Program. When construction wraps up in a few months on the Wilmington-New Castle Greenway (aka the Markell Trail), Delaware will gain a remarkable new asset: a flat, paved, and nearly uninterrupted non-motorized seven-mile route between the Wilmington Riverfront and downtown New Castle.
47. Since 2012, and including figures for the current show, more than 100 musicians will have put more than 8,500 hours into rehearsals for the Shine A Light series of concerts. These sold-out shows have helped raise a net profit of more than $500,000 for the Light Up The Queen Foundation, a local non-profit focusing on community-building through programs in arts, music, education, workforce development and mentoring.
48. Through dozens of concerts since 2006, hundreds of area musicians and administrative volunteers have donated their time to the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, an environmental group focused mainly on local water quality and quantity. Eight years of DeadFest concerts combined with the Jam on the Brandywine series (2006-2016) have help raise more than $275,000 toward the alliance’s restoration and conservation efforts.
49. Volunteers from Harvey, Hanna & Associates and dozens of area breweries—in partnership with Penn Cinema—helped raise more than $45,000 for local non-profits last year as a result of the monthly Movies On Tap series, which pairs regional craft beers with classic movies. For more details on Movies On Tap, see the article on page 57.
50. Christiana Care Health System and WXPN continue to partner with area musicians to bring WXPN’s Musicians On Call program to patients at Christiana Care’s Wilmington Hospital, which is coordinated locally through Christiana Care’s Volunteer Services. Since 2014, area artists have brought the power of music to more than 6,100 patients, family members and hospital staff members.