By Dec. 31, Betty Londergan will have given away $36,500 of her money to charity.
For every single day in 2010, Londergan, a Yellow Bluff resident, donated $100 to a cause, person or organization she felt worthy to receive charity in the form of money.
As a freelance writer and advertiser, she decided to take the craft she loves the most and expand upon it in what she felt was a unique and giving way. For 365 days, she blogged about why she chose to give to a particular cause and the special people she met along the way.
“For me, it was very, very optimistic and to concentrate on people doing good in the world,” she said of her blog project, “What Gives 365.” “Because I’m a writer, I think it appealed to me and I think it was a way to shine light on these organizations around the world. Most of what I write about is stuff that you’ve never heard of, and that was my intent.”
Londergan said her parents were always generous people and her mother often donated money to Catholic charities, something the writer witnessed throughout her childhood. After Londergan’s father passed away, he left her and her seven siblings a small inheritance, but it was enough for her to do good with.
After seeing the movie “Julie & Julia” — a film about an avid food blogger — Londergan was overcome with inspiration to work on a large, motivating project dedicated to charity.
“It was just a flash of inspiration. I just decided to give away money and write about it,” the writer said. “And I wasn’t trying to save the world. Yes, I was trying to encourage people to give. For me, it was just exhilarating to tell the stories and put them out there.”
For up to 10 hours a day, Londergan sat at her computer in the third story of her house, researching causes she felt needed her attention. She had donated to larger charities in the past, like The United Nations Children’s Fund, but knew that other struggling organizations needed attention as well.
“I’m not all about one cause. I’m trying to show people that whatever you’re interested in, there are people in the world who support that cause,” she said. “I worked night and day. I am not kidding. I totally abandoned my family. It was a grand obsession.”
After finding a cause she was interested in, Londergan would further investigate by locating news articles, contacting sources and conducting phone interviews to ensure the legitimacy of the organization.
Sometime in May — five months after she started the project — she said she got depressed and lost her inspiration, but continued to blog and donate each day. Her daughter had gone off to college, and her husband worked, leaving Londergan with nothing but writing and researching to do for hours at a time. But the stories she heard — like a little boy asking for toy cars as his birthday gifts so he could send them to soldiers overseas to give to Middle Eastern children — continued to touch her heart in a way that gave her encouragement unlike anything else.
“I would just have these stories over and over of people doing phenomenally kind things for people they don’t even know,” she said. “I think when you have that, you need to take it in. It really is not about money, it really is about your heart.”
As she found interesting stories along the way, she gained confidence once again in the large endeavor that had taken over her life.
“I guess it’s like swimming. It’s like you have to do it. There’s really no choice,” she said. “I felt a tremendous responsibility of the people I was writing about. I had a tremendous responsibility to make it the best I could. I took it really seriously.”
Even after spending almost a full year working on “What Gives 365,” she doesn’t think she has become a better person as a result, just a happier person.
“I think again, you know, you become what you spend your time doing … for me, having done it every day … I feel really, really, really good that I did that,” she said. “I’m really happy that I was able to keep that commitment and see it through. I’m proud of that and I made it to the finish line. I don’t know because it is so daily and demanding and so completely involving, I don’t think I will have a perspective on it.”
After her commitment to one year of doing good, Londergan hopes to see a television show come out of it because it is a human interest piece, something she thinks would fascinate many viewers. Ideally, the show would cast light on her top 40 stories that she believes to be the most compelling.
It is just another project in the works for the busy freelancer.
“That’s my wildest dream,” she said. “I’ve learned the most cliché of all clichés — it is better to give than to receive. I actually feel like I got more this year than I gave by far. I also learned that if you want to be inspired, there is everything out there to inspire in people doing those things. If you choose not to be, then that’s actually your choice — because there are people doing unbelievably remarkable things in almost all aspects of our world.”
As for her blog followers, Londergan said she has received mostly positive feedback.
Debbie Brown, a reader of the blog, said she sees the writer as someone who lives a passionate life.
“She is articulate, intelligent, and skilled in marketing and writing. Plus, she is gorgeous and way too fit to be someone who rarely exercises! You could hate her if she wasn’t so nice, interesting, and interested,” Brown said. “She lives with passion, but without self-absorption. If she is involved with a project or with a cause, she gives it her all. I guess that’s why her latest project “What Gives 365” is so intriguing. She has used inheritance money to make a difference in the lives of others, and in the process she has expanded her personal horizons by learning about different causes, cultures, people, and more.”
Londergan is also the author of two books, “I’m too Sexy for my Volvo” and “The Agony and the Agony: Raising Your Teenager without Losing Your Mind”.
The author appeared on The Martha Stewart Show last week and will be interviewed at 10 a.m. Jan. 1 on CNN.