Kids in Philanthropy

Elementary school students listen to presentations by representatives from Mesa United Way's partner agencies before deciding where to spend a donor's contribution.

Kids in Philanthropy is a great way for you to help build a stronger Mesa with a substantial donation to Mesa United Way while also encouraging young people to learn about needs in our community and empowering them to make decisions that will assist people in need.
Here’s how it works:
If you plan to contribute at least $11,000 to Mesa United Way’s annual pledge campaign, you can enlist the help of Mesa elementary school students to decide how those dollars will be used. For example, the 110 fifth and sixth graders at a particular school will hold an assembly and hear presentations from representatives of several of Mesa United Way’s partner agencies, such as United Food Bank, Helen’s Hope Chest or A New Leaf. Each student then decides how he or she will designate $100 of the donor’s contribution – for a total of $11,000. Students can designate funds to any IRS-approved  501 c (3) charity.
Kids in Philanthropy was launched in 2011 by Mesa philanthropist John Whiteman in conjunction with Mesa United Way as a way to encourage young people to think of ways to help people in need in their community. The fifth and sixth graders at Holmes Elementary School were put in charge of deciding how to divvy up Whiteman’s $11,500 donation to Mesa United Way.

John Whiteman found that elementary students are thoughtful and attentive when investing donors' money in programs that help people in need.

“Character education is important and we need to start at an early age,” said Whiteman, who is the retired CEO of Empire Southwest in Mesa and president of the Whiteman Foundation. “And if kids are going to give back to their community, they need to learn to do the research. This program teaches teamwork, empathy, compassion and helping each other. They need to apply math and their ABCs to accomplish it.”
The pilot program was a huge success, and Kids in Philanthropy has expanded to include several other donors and three Mesa schools. Whiteman hopes its success will continue to inspire more business people to adopt a school.
“You can make a huge difference in any school,” he said. “This is a lot of money to these kids and they’re taking their responsibility very seriously.”
For more information about Kids in Philanthropy, call Alicia Holmes, at 480-834-2110, or email

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