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Karisny clan makes charity part of holiday

The more you share, the more you have.

Before Bob and Mary Karisny’s five grandchildren start tearing apart their presents on Christmas Day, they have some charitable business to attend to.

This has been the routine at grandma and grandpa’s house for their two children, their spouses and the grandkids for the past 10 or so years. The Menasha couple’s Bob and Mary Karisny Family Fund at the Community Foundation helps make it happen more easily.

Each family member chooses a charity to receive equal donations. The children and grandchildren are given about a minute each to convince the others why their charity is the worthiest. They vote and the winner gets a double donation.

Past recipients have included St. Joseph Food Program, homeless shelters, the YMCA, and the American Red Cross and CHAPS, the Shiocton-area suicide prevention counseling program that reaches troubled kids through working with horses.

The grants come from their family fund, a permanent endowment known as a donor advised fund that can continue on to be the source of giving for future generations. Bob and Mary also have two designated funds that regularly divide all available grant money among a list of charities they selected, mostly benefitting the homeless.

“It’s fun to sit back with your kids and grandkids and do this,” Bob said.

He said he was about 50 when he figured out the joy that comes from giving to charity. He doesn’t want next generations to wait that long for the experience. It fits in with the Karisnys’ family motto: “The more you share, the more you have.”

“That’s our motivation in doing this,” Bob said. “If they grow up in that environment, all of a sudden when they are 13, 15, 18, they have a tendency to get it more.”

“This is something that’s always been important for mom and dad,” Jennifer McGinnis, their daughter, said.

“I learn so much from my parents every day about giving back,” their son, Mike Karisny, said.

Both Mike and Jennifer said they see acts of kindness in their own children that they suspect are encouraged by the grandparents’ emphasis on charity.

Jacquelyn, the eldest grandchild, said that she has come to understand the generosity of her grandparents and she sees the younger children’s appreciation for charity growing, too. They all look forward to hearing each other’s reasons for backing the charities. But as much as they look forward to opening the presents?

Jacquelyn calls it a tie.

“It’s just like watching a flower grow,” Bob said, as from year to year the child’s giving spirit blossoms.