Those who know me well—and I’m lucky to say a lot of amazing people can easily make that claim—have invariably heard my go-to refrain whenever I’m asked to do something I’m not particularly excited about: “I give and I give and I give…” My quasi-comical aside is usually met with equal parts laughter and exaggerated eye rolls. But, as yet another holiday season rolls in, I couldn’t help but wonder (cue Carrie Bradshaw), if, in fact, I actually do give and give and give. And that’s precisely the moment my honest answer stopped me dead in my tracks.
For years and years, I knew I was a “giving” person because I won awards for it. Even writing that now sounds, I don’t know, icky. For decades, I was happy to donate my time, money and passion to several organizations that I believed were serving a purpose in our society. So, as most of us who believe in philanthropy do, I devoted my energy to causes I felt connected to, most notably GLAAD. For the uninitiated, GLAAD is essentially the watchdog organization over all media and entertainment to ensure fair and inclusive representation for LGBTQ individuals.
As the former Editor in Chief at Time Inc.’s People en Español, the country’s largest Hispanic publication, I was proud to lead a magazine that won three consecutive GLAAD Media Awards for myriad stories impacting the LGBTQ community. I also served as Executive Producer of the GLAAD Media Award-winning film, East Side Story, directed by Carlos Portugal, and I capped off my run by receiving the organization’s first-ever “Visibility Award.” Fairness. Equality. Leveling the playing field. Those are ideas that are not only logical and indisputable, but also deeply matter to me, in all aspects of life—especially now.
As I enter my third year charged with leading saratoga living in all aspects of the company, I’ve made it my mission to get to know a number of selfless, generous, local heroes, who walk among us and devote vast amounts of their time and treasure to causes they believe in most. From where I sit, few people anywhere are as eager to help their fellow man as Ed and Lisa Mitzen. The Mitzens are, of course, no strangers to saratoga living: Ed was the magazine’s inaugural “Person Of The Year” exactly a year ago, and Lisa has become one of saratogaliving.com’s most important and best-read contributors. We’re so thrilled to count Ed and Lisa Mitzen among the saratoga living family, largely because of their herculean efforts to help and, perhaps most importantly, humanize Saratoga’s growing homeless population. This Saratoga-based couple is indefatigable in their single-mindedness on this issue, and Lisa’s poignant, heartbreaking profiles of “people without homes,” as she puts it, persevering and ultimately finding self-respect and triumph are absolute must-reads on our website.
The Mitzens, like the great Saratoga philanthropists who came before them—Marylou Whitney, our iconic cover subject, very much included—make it all too obvious that it’s now once again time for me to rethink what giving means to me. It’s going to be a tough question to fully answer because of the many worthy organizations I have to give back to in our beautiful Spa City. But, happily, I have the knowledge that it isn’t so much who you’re helping, but if you’re helping.
With love, kindness and charity front and center in this most generous of seasons, I hope you join me in digging deep and thinking about what giving means to you. Not the easiest question to confront head on perhaps, but, in the end, is there a more important question you should be answering? Exactly. Happy holidays, Saratoga.