You’re Never Too Young to be a Philanthropist

For the Trettins, giving is a family affair. From left: Angie, 12-year-old Henry, Matt and 7-year-old Aggie.

Writer: Steve Dinnen

Aggie Trettin’s reasoning behind donating to charitable causes is simple and straightforward. As she puts it: “It’s not about just you.”

Aggie is 7 years old. Her brother, Henry, is 12, and between the two of them they have already discovered how to support arts and sciences, educational opportunities, and even soccer teams that make up the fabric of the city where they’ve spent their young lives. Both are active givers as well as doers, as they volunteer as well.

The Trettin children have good role models in their parents, Angela Dethlefs Trettin and Matt Trettin. As newlyweds 16 years ago, they opened a donor-advised fund, and they have made contributions to it each year since then.

Angela is in a position to know about charitable giving, as she is chief community impact officer at the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation. It has identified scores of organizations that work in every space in the nonprofit world, from food security to education to arts and culture. Interested donors can route any amount through the foundation and still gain qualifying tax deductions.

One tool that the family uses to identify donation targets is the Community Foundation’s giveDSM portal, givedsm.org. It is a virtual who’s who of Des Moines charitable organizations, showing their needs for general support or capital campaigns. The kids and their parents periodically review it to look for opportunities that interest them.

Aggie and Henry have found other outlets on their own. A relative has Down’s syndrome, Henry said, so they give to the Special Olympics and to Link Associates, which works with people with intellectual disabilities. Aggie has taken classes at Des Moines Community Playhouse, so she has donated to that organization.

The entire family enjoys Blank Park Zoo, and Henry said it was pretty cool when a friend texted to say he had spotted the family’s name on a donors’ plaque there. Both kids said they sometimes talk to classmates about giving, and often, Aggie said, they have said they also are engaged in some sort of gifting.

Aggie and Henry have chipped in time, as well. They and their parents have all visited Bidwell Riverside, a food pantry and child care center, and Hawthorn Hill, which strives to secure housing for the homeless. They’ve handed out meals, made crafts with the kids and, as Henry said, “just played.”

Pretty straightforward stuff. And it hews true to Aggie’s position of “it’s not about just you.”

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