First in a series on PAL donors. Who are they? What motivates them?
Helen Gibbons has been eagerly watching the Giants playoff games, although she calls herself something of a fair-weather Giants fan. But when it comes to PAL, she is anything but fair-weather. She’s one of the tried-and-true, through-thick-and-thin, never-say-die fans.
The 90-year-old resident of San Francisco’s Sunset district says her association with PAL dates back to the late 1950s. That’s when her son Tom was a PAL kid and her husband Officer Eugene Gibbons a PAL coach.
Eugene passed away in 2006. He was a San Francisco police officer for 30 years, working for most of his career in the juvenile bureau. He had a great love for baseball, and managed the baseball team for the SFPD, in addition to his PAL coaching. Her son Tom is now 63. He recently retired from a career spanning 37 years as corporate treasurer at Del Monte Foods.
It was around 1959, the year of PAL’s founding, that Officer Gibbons hooked up with PAL by doing what many parents do — signing up to coach his son’s baseball team. He coached the team for two years.
That brief, early association made a lasting impression on Helen, who now counts herself among PAL’s loyal donor base. In fact, her generation has always supported PAL, even when their own children no longer played PAL sports and long after they themselves had left the ranks of coaches and referees. Their devotion runs deep.
Gibbons says she gives less than $100 two to four times a year. Until last year, her donations were matched by former employer Bank of America, where she worked for 30 years, retiring as assistant vice president. She laments that the matching program was discontinued for BofA retirees, presumably to save money in a tough economic time.
“I think I donated a little more because of the matching gift,” she admits. “I know it should be the other way around … It sounded like a plus.”
Small donors like Gibbons are the bread-and-butter of PAL’s funding. Gibbons thinks more people would support PAL if they knew more about the great work that PAL does, even if they don’t have children in sports.
“It’s such a worthwhile program,” she says. “I just think that the whole idea of PAL, to get kids interested in sports, keeps them off street and helps them develop their areas of interest.”
She also believes it’s important for kids to be exposed to police in a safe setting, such as the soccer or football field. She would like to see the bond between PAL and the police strengthened.
“I just feel that if kids start young, they have a different feeling toward the police than if they get a ticket because they parked in the wrong place.”
These days, Gibbons spends her time with her three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, one of whom is currently a PAL kid. She also likes to go out for lunch with fellow BofA retirees or fellow police widows, admitting that, at her age, the thought of cooking lunch does not excite her. The Giants winning the World Series … now, that’s a different story!