Service of Charity V: 13 is a Charm for Christopher Leadership Award Winner

May 28th, 2019

Categories: Charity, Hero

Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president, COO, Secretary of The Christophers with Frank Siller, winner of the 2019 Christopher Leadership Award

Being charity-minded and selfless came naturally to the Siller children. Last week Frank Siller told a New York City audience about the Thanksgiving his mother picked up the turkey from the dining room table and brought it to a family she had just heard was less well off than hers, and they were poor. Siller was so young he didn’t remember but his older brother tells the story. Their father–eventually there were seven children–spent Saturdays at a hospital chatting or praying with the ill–whatever was needed.

Frank Siller, left, and Christopher Awards MC Ernie Anastos, anchor/producer, Fox 5, NY

The story the chairman and CEO of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation told that touched me the most happened after his First Holy Communion. He’d received a stack of envelopes from well wishers the contents of which totaled $26. His mother took him for a walk that day and asked him how much he would give to those in need. He tested the water and suggested $13, which his mother accepted. He said that today, he can’t remember what he bought with his $13 but he remembers, in retrospect, how he felt about $13 he gave away.

To honor their brother, Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who was killed on 9/11, Siller and his siblings launched the foundation to aid catastrophically injured veterans, first responders, and Gold Star families. For this Frank Siller was honored with The Christopher Leadership Award that recognizes individuals whose work, actions, and example serve as a guiding light to others. I heard Siller address the other winners of Christopher Awards–for their winning feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people–and guests who gathered for the 70th Annual Christopher Awards.

Some of the Christopher Award winning authors who attended the 70th Christopher Awards in New York City are, from the left, Torrey Maldonado, “Tight;” Linsey Davis, “The World is Awake;” Jeffrey Kluger, “To the Moon!;” Ruby Shamir, “To the Moon!;” David Blight whose book “Frederick Douglass” also won a Pulitzer Award and Beth Hautala, “The Ostrich and Other Lost Things.”

The Foundation began locally and now has a national reach building specially adapted smart homes for members of the military who have lost arms and legs, pays off mortgages for families of first responders who have been killed in the line of duty and supports Gold Star families and supports community programs around the country. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over $125 million dollars, with 95 cents of every dollar going to programs.

St. Francis of Assisi said “While we have time, let us do good,” which the siblings adopted as the Foundation’s motto because they heard their parents frequently repeat those words. This motto fits hand-in-hand with The Christophers’ motto: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” which guides its publishing, radio, online, and awards programs.

Do you think it is easier for poor people to give to charity than for the comfortable? I am always amazed by Americans’ generosity. Is giving to charity cultural? Did your family guide or inspire you to give time or money to support causes that were meaningful to you?

From the left presenters at the 70th Annual Christopher Awards ceremony: Tony Aiello, reporter, WCBS-TV, NY; Joan Bauer, author, three-time Christopher Award winner; Paula Faris, ABC News anchor and host of the “Journeys of Faith” podcast with MC Ernie Anastos, anchor/producer, Fox 5, NY and 2016 Life Achievement Award winner.

 

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2 Responses to “Service of Charity V: 13 is a Charm for Christopher Leadership Award Winner”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    I haven’t the slightest notion who enjoys giving more, but suspect it’s a matter of personality rather than the size of one’s pocketbook. Personality, in all probability, also dictates whether one enjoys seeing one’s generosity broadcast from rooftops vs. giving anonymously.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I think it also helps if family members, mentors or those young people admire are generous.

    I learned my lesson when I was first married in my 20s. My husband was in basic training in Texas and I was living with my parents in NYC. I picked up an envelope at church and proudly printed my new name on it before placing money inside. My father warned me that this might not be such a good idea but who listened? The next week there in the church bulletin for all to see were posted the names under the amounts they’d given. Even in the day, $1.00 was nothing to boast about and because my new last name began with a Z, you couldn’t miss it. Argh.

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