Thanksgiving is over and the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers around town reminds us all that Christmas is near. At East Texas Communities Foundation, our focus turns to year-end giving such as the Shine Your Light Community Campaign. (Disclaim-er: I am not paid to write this column and the newspaper did not ask me to write on this subject today. I think the story of the Shine Your Light Community Campaign is one that could be and should be repeated in generous communities across our region.)

In 2008, the Tyler Morning Telegraph introduced the Shine Your Light Community Campaign inviting the community to support important local charities during the Christmas season. It is hard to believe that 2014 marks the seventh year of this local holiday giving program. The theme, "Shine Your Light," comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5:16, when he encouraged his listeners to "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." The Shine Your Light Community Campaign shines a light each year on several organizations that are doing good works in our community by serving our neighbors who are in need.

The brief annual campaign gives each of us as members of the community the opportunity to learn more about these organizations and join in their efforts. Collectively, just under $1 million has been distributed to 19 local charities since 2008. Every time I have the chance to reflect on the amazing generosity of our community with Nelson Clyde, he is quick to give the glory to God. From the perspective of the publisher of the paper, the campaign is a way to engage readers and local businesses to support the community that provides their livelihood. For Nelson personally, the Shine Your Light campaign is a way to give back to the community that wells up from a deeply held faith. And that is the story of giving for many people in our community — a deeply held faith yields compassion for their fellow man, and they take action to give or to serve others.

So what does this have to do with a community foundation? In the case of the Shine Your Light Community Campaign, a community foundation, is simply the vehicle used to carry out this charitable endeavor. The newspaper did not have to create a new nonprofit organization to accomplish this task. Neither did the newspaper staff have to drop their daily activities to run a charity for two weeks. Even if the newspaper were to handle the daily administration of the campaign, they lack the nonprofit charity status that would afford each donor the ability to make donations that are considered tax deductible in the eyes of the IRS. East Texas Communities Foundation already has an administrative system in place and the requisite tax status to efficiently and appropriately receive and acknowledge gifts.

The Shine Your Light Community Fund is a "field of interest" fund established by T.B. Butler Publishing, Inc. to "provide charitable assistance to those in need in Tyler, Texas." Gifts to the fund are directed to East Texas Communities Foundation for the benefit of the Shine Your Light Community Fund. The newspaper has the perfect platform to "shine light" on various charities each year with feature stories demonstrating the good works they are performing in our community, encouraging contributions to the fund. Together, with the charitable administration provided by East Texas Communities Foundation and the promotion of the campaign by the newspaper, the fund is able to quickly and efficiently receive contributions and distribute funds to support local charities.

East Texas Communities Foundation currently has 20 field-of-interest funds that support causes such as veterans, the arts, parks, nursing, seniors, disabled persons, public health initiatives, libraries, or charities serving those in need in specific geographic areas such as Tyler and Henderson County. If there is a little light in you that sparks a desire for your family or business to support an area of charitable need, perhaps a field of interest fund can be created to accomplish this during your lifetime or even after your death. My encouragement to you is to Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine!


Guest columnist, Kyle Penney is president of East Texas Communities Foundation. The mission of ETCF is to support philanthropy by providing simple ways for donors to achieve their long-term charitable goals. To learn more about ETCF or to discuss your charitable giving, contact Kyle at 866-533-3823 or email questions or comments to More information is available at

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