CommuniCare Affects Real Lives

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Students work together as philanthropists

By Mackenzie Treible '09

Pardon the hackneyed analogy, but the essence of CommuniCare’s genesis lies in the question of Juliet Capulet’s famous soliloquy: “What’s in a name?” Well, Juliet, CommuniCare materializes what its name dares to imply: caring for the community.

As a Catlin Gabel student, I at many times seem to get lost in the school’s community. The student group CommuniCare forces me down to earth and helps me remember that a world lies beyond the bounds of Barnes and Leahy Roads. CommuniCare serves as an opportunity for students to fall out of Catlin’s comfortable niche and experience real-life decisions affecting people all over Oregon.

The framework for CommuniCare is simple: raise money and give it away. To extend this statement into a conceit, the students together are the masterpiece enclosed by this frame. Throughout the 2007–08 school year, a small group of students diligently worked to raise the maximum amount of money possible. With endless bake sales full of doughnut holes and cupcakes, and raffles of candy-filled pumpkins, CommuniCare managed to raise a remarkable amount of money.

In CommuniCare, entrepreneurship and originality are key for a successful year. After a student vote that determines the annual mission statement, CommuniCare narrows its focus to one specific philanthropic topic. Students then visit the sites of the organizations whose proposed grants match the program’s mission statement. Physically visiting these organizations helps extend the students’ knowledge of the program. CommuniCare teaches students to think independently while still maintaining a munificent sense of community.

So, Juliet, you ask, “What’s in a name?” Well, I say CommuniCare’s name is what it says. Every student who takes part in CommuniCare heeds the warning signs of a wounded world and hopes to someday take at least one straw off the camel’s back. Some may say it’s a club for romanticists, but I say it’s for those who are hopeful and care for the community.

Mackenzie Treible ’09 is a Catlin Gabel senior.
Harold and Arlene Schnitzer founded the CommuniCare program to teach young people about community needs and philanthropy


The CommuniCare program was started in 1999 by Harold and Arlene Schnitzer, parents of Jordan Schnitzer ’69 and Catlin Gabel grandparents, to teach students about community needs and the role of nonprofit organizations in meeting those needs. Students are challenged to raise at least $500 through activities such as bake sales, raffles, and service projects. This money is then matched 15:1 by a grant from the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Care Foundation. Any additional funds raised by the students above $500 are matched 5:1.

This gives the students in the CommuniCare program at least $7,500 to give to organizations of their choice as grant money. To choose organizations they conduct a student survey, research organizations, and visit sites. Organizations that have benefited from CommuniCare at Catlin Gabel include the Oregon Food Bank, Children’s Community Clinic, Self-Enhancement Project (SEI), SMART (Start Making a Reader Today), Centro Cultural, and Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Students in our program have granted a total of $94,524 to 26 local organizations since 1999.