The gift of dignity

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LOREN BENOIT/Press Board member Debi Pauletto, left, introduces fellow board member Amberly Bunch to attendees during the first Charity Reimagined conference Monday at Hospice of North Idaho.

As a teen and young adult, Charity Reimagined board member Amberly Bunch knew how to work the system, and she was an expert at manipulating her family.

“When I needed things, I would call them,” she said Monday evening. “I knew by crying, my dad would send me money. It’s what he knew to do.”

When she moved to Boise to go to beauty school and lived in a house her family owned, she started partying and heavily using and selling drugs.

“So many of my family’s things got stolen or broken,” she said. “When I learned how to sell drugs, I just started doing that. I didn’t have to pay any bills, I didn’t pay my cell phone bill, I won some money gambling and I bought a car. I didn’t pay my family any money for letting me live there or anything. It was just all about me. I didn’t do anything if there wasn’t anything in it for me.”

“She had a free ticket to just run with the wrong crowd doing the wrong things,” said fellow board member Debi Pauletto. “It had some pretty high price tags.”

Bunch’s big wake up call didn’t happen when she turned blue, collapsed and was revived when an officer pulled her friend over for speeding while taking her to the hospital.

“To the thanks of a peace officer doing CPR on Amberly, she would not be here today,” Pauletto said. “Now, that wasn’t the story that changed her life.”

Several years later, after taking advantage of her family and government programs and spiraling out of control, divine intervention stepped in.

“I got in some serious legal trouble and found out I was pregnant. I was arrested,” she said. “My daughter saved my life.”

“Amberly shared the good intention with her dad. She said to me last week, ‘My dad loved me the only way that he knew how. But he loved me almost to death.’ I want you to think about that. ‘Loved her almost to death,’” Pauletto said. “That one-way giving, passing off the next thing to her to keep her from facing what was coming down the pike, it didn’t really work. It didn’t really work at all.”

Bunch and Pauletto, along with fellow board members Jackie Maker and Leslie Orth and Charity Reimagined founder Maggie Lyons, spoke to about 15 community members in the North Idaho Hospice Community Room during the first of three public workshops the nonprofit is hosting to share its vision of reprogramming the way charity work is conducted.

Charity Reimagined is focused on changing how giving is done so those who give know their well-intended actions are actually helping, and so those who receive have a sense of value and accountability when they accept assistance, rather than feel entitled or like they’re getting a handout.

This change begins with three words: reciprocity, exchange and dignity.

As the emergency shelter program coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho, and through her own experiences, Bunch knows what works — and what doesn’t — to help lift a person out of a bad situation.

“Where I work, I see it often, the clients that come in and they need assistance and their funds aren’t available or they’ve recently gotten assistance, and they get so angry,” she said. “That’s when you know you’re doing the right thing by not enabling or handing out. If there’s reciprocity or you have them volunteer for something or put something into it, it means more and they’ll appreciate it more. I’ve lived that side and I’m also seeing it at work and trying to fix things.”

This approach to charity and ministry work draws from Robert Lupton, who has spent more than 40 years of his life working with delinquent youth and families in need in Atlanta. He and his team founded the Lupton Center in 2015 to share tools, strategies and resources to help people as they build Holistic Neighborhood Development (beliefs and practices that replace transactional giving with mutuality and partnership) in their own communities.

The public is invited to learn more at Charity Reimagined’s upcoming presentations from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Sept. 25 in the North Idaho Hospice Community Room, 2290 W. Prairie Ave., Coeur d’Alene, as well as from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front Ave., Coeur d’Alene.

Charity Reimagined will also bring the Lupton Center to North Idaho for interactive seminars Oct. 21 and 22.

Info: www.charityreimagined.org

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