Christy Bisgrove grew up with one central rule. Nobody goes it alone. “It’s a pretty special value,” Christy says. “As a child of divorce, I hold that dear as it is what unites my family.”
A lifelong northwest Bergen resident, Christy grew up in Upper Saddle River and now resides in Ridgewood. Thanks to the seeds planted by her parents, she has a big heart for philanthropy. “Both parents were hardcore about giving back quietly,” says Christy. “It was always an expectation that we would somehow give back. It was part of our family’s fabric.”
Christy has a sound philosophy about philanthropy throughout her years of community involvement. “It’s an investment of time and treasure; I don’t like to think of it as a ‘donation.’ I want a holistic knowledge of the organizations I support, and I have a vested interest in them. If there’s something to celebrate, I feel it; and if something goes wrong, I feel that, too."
She makes a point of knowing the organization’s financial numbers, reviewing reports, and communicating with the staff and participants. “I encourage them to tell their stories in layman’s terms. That way, it’s easy for me to share their message with others. If they don’t have a story that people can grasp on to and feel the emotion behind it, they should go back and learn how to develop one so that they can tell us their ‘why.’ God gave us a heartbeat for a reason, and if we can’t tap into it, we may miss the message!”
Christy believes that non-profits need to work alongside each other, as well. “It’s a circular approach,” she says. “One thing touches another. For example, I support Oasis, a Haven for Women and Children in Paterson (see the article on page _), and Pony Power in Mahwah. We’ve encouraged teens from Oasis to come to Pony Power for a day away from the city streets.” This philosophy allows inner-city teens to experience a beautiful day in the country working with the horses while providing additional helping hands for Pony Power. They leave with a better understanding of individuals with special needs or circumstances, horsemanship, and a sense of how therapeutic equestrian services can help individuals mentally, physically, and developmentally.
Christy’s main areas of support include education, emergency funding, research, and therapy. “When we have those things, the family system is fed from head to toe,” she says.
In addition to serving on the Oasis board and underwriting their evening GED program, Christy is also involved with the Valerie Fund, supporting children with cancer and blood disorders. “I support an emergency fund there for hematology patients and their families. Blood disorders like Sickle cell anemia or Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) don’t receive as much attention or support as other types of cancers."
Christy’s “circle” also embraces The Community Foundation of New Jersey in Morristown, which implements and manages foundations and other types of giving vehicles for individuals, families, and corporations. The organization serves as a resource for supporting their philanthropic interests, tailoring solutions, and creating a way to set up their legacies into perpetuity. “People want to do good…but they don’t know how. This organization helps to do just that,” she says. “It’s amazing the impact people can make. When people tell me that they can ‘only’ give a certain amount, I stop and address that word ‘only.’ We are all part of a team, and whatever you give is the piece of a puzzle that adds up to a great impact. Think about it. If you gave $200 a month for two years, along with 200 other people, that raises almost one million dollars.”
Christy has strong feelings on what constitutes true investment and involvement in a charitable organization. “It’s all about the total holistic investment. The dirt on my hands has to be equal to the green on my tree. My parents always taught me to know my lane. There will always be people with more—or less—than you. Everybody can make an impact.