Giving While Living


Dr. Merl Jacobsen and his wife, Barbara, certainly never waited until after they were gone in order to begin their giving. In an attitude of celebration they have given unreservedly of themselves as well as their acquired possessions. Having made the decision to be givers while they were still alive, they have thrilled at being able to watch the multiplied benefits of their generosity in venues all around the world.

I recall when, in the early 1990s, Barbara and Dr. Merl came to me as excited as prom pals. They had fallen madly in love with Project C.U.R.E. and suggested having a party at their home on Ketring Lake. “We want to invite all our friends from Denver’s medical community and get them introduced to this amazing organization.” And a party we had, indeed! The prerequisite for attending was each medical person had to bring a piece of medical equipment, a batch of fresh medical supplies or old fashioned cash as a donation. Barbara’s party theme was “Africa” and even the catering personnel dressed up like lions and zebras. When the party was over it was necessary to retain a truck to haul all the donations back to our Project C.U.R.E. warehouse!

But the love affair with giving grew with intensity and soon Barbara and Dr. Merl were leading our medical teams into Bolivia, Senegal, Tanzania, Ethiopia (and 8 other African countries) and even China. They became living portraits of the axiom, “If you give light, people will find the way.” They were freely dispensing the light of help, hope, and unselfishness.

The Jacobsen’s infectious enthusiasm for giving began affecting the lives of hundreds of people in the Denver area. Barbara became affectionately known as “Project C.U.R.E.’s “Angel Ambassador,” and the energized couple recruited hundreds of people to come to our warehouse to help them sort, package, and ship medical goods into over a hundred countries around the world. They had discovered the joy of giving!

As devoted Rotarians, Barbara and Dr. Merl helped spearhead an effort to raise $250,000 for the purchase of Project C.U.R.E.’s new warehouse and international headquarters. Like the multiplication miracle of the loaves and fish, that amount eventually multiplied into nearly one- and-one- half million dollars. And even in the time of tragedy, when their beloved grandson, Peter, was killed in a rock climbing accident in Yosemite National Park, the Jacobsens reached deep into their reserve of love and compassion, and in memory of Peter gave comfort, joy and peace to those of us who grieved and mourned the loss of Peter.

Our world is learning a great truth: “What I hoard I lose . . . What I try to keep will be left and fought over by others . . . What I give will continue to return forever.” What the Jacobsens learned was that, “What you’re giving while you’re living . . . you (and thousands of others) are knowing where it’s going!” May we experience early the joys and rewards of giving while we are still alive.