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As I See It | Greg Leifel Talks About What Makes a Giver

As I See It | Greg Leifel Talks About What Makes a Giver

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Greg Leifel is executive director of the Sanfilippo Foundation in Barrington Hills

In my work I help non-profit organizations of all sizes attract new people to hear their message, join as a volunteer and possibly help with funding. The draw is the Sanfilippo Estate located on 57 acres in Barrington Hills. For the first time, its gardens will be featured in the Hands of Hope Barrington Country Garden & Antique Faire on June 17th & 18th. The Carousel Pavilion will be open to ticket holders.

Everything we do is by word of mouth. People who have been to the Estate tell their friends. I feel fortunate to work with fun, interesting people who care. They are givers. Their focus is on others. They ask, ‘How can I help?”

The Sanfilippo Estate is a 44,000-foot private home filled with unique and historic automatic music machines that play real instruments mechanically. Inside any one machine is an orchestra. I have learned the history of nearly every item in the Estate’s collection. I read books, talk with the people who repair and restore the machines, and let my own curiosity drive me.

This year nearly 36 charity events will be held here along with 75 private invitation guided tours. The Foundation is self-sustaining. I enjoy sharing what I’ve come to know about successful fundraising with any non-competing organizations seeking advice.

A giver’s greatest reward is knowing they helped someone. They experience fulfillment beyond the self. Givers treat people with respect. Every person that enters the house is regarded as a guest. People are surprised that they can sit on the furniture. They think it’s on display as antiques. The question I get asked most is: “Who cleans the house?” There are four women who come in twice a week. They take great pride in keeping the house spotless. When we are hosting events in the Carousel Pavilion, the hardworking kitchen staff is invited to take a break and ride on the carousel that was originally made in France in 1890.

Whether we’re hosting a local grade school or the National Medal of Honor Foundation I learn something about giving. Kids are fascinated when they enter the Estate. They ask intelligent questions about how things work. They are so curious. When astronaut Jim Lovell visited with the National Honor Foundation I learned how down to earth a man who walked on the moon could be.

Sometimes people are givers without recognizing it themselves. A senior gentleman, who had not purchased a ticket for a guided tour, decided to come when his neighbor got sick and gave him the ticket. He was a World War II veteran. He asked me if we could play the song As Time Goes By on the 8,000-pipe theatre organ. I told him I would check on it. I found the song and it was played for him. He thanked me and said it was he and his late wife’s favorite song. His story was a gift.

Givers are grateful. When I see the desperate situation some people are in and the people who care for them I am overwhelmed. At the partially State funded Little Angels organization in Elgin the staff is hands-on caring for kids with extreme physical and mental disabilities. Every day the staff shows up. The State has cut back funding. I am glad that in some small way I can help share this gorgeous, unbelievable place so that others, like Little Angels, can thrive.

Whether around the corner or across the world, givers know they have something to offer. For some of them it’s money or time. For others it may be a story, music, or turning a frown into a smile. Givers ask for nothing in return, yet somehow giving becomes the highest expression of who they really are.

If you want to attend a summer concert series event open to the public you can purchase tickets here on the Sanfilippo Foundation website.

As I See It expresses the opinion or point of view of a Barrington area resident on a topic that they care about and are knowledgeable on. Through a personal interview, writer Mary Klest compiles the narrative for 365Barrington with images by local photographer, Kate Smith.

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