Beth Helmstetter had been helping couples say "I do" for more than a decade before, one day, it occurred to her that it was possible to make these extraordinary moments even more remarkable. It would require a union of her own unique ingenuity, a bridge between her career in event planning and her passion for philanthropy. Like any strong marriage, it was going to take an incredible amount of hard work, but she knew it would be worth it. And so began the origin story of The Good Beginning, her online wedding registry that allows couples and their guests to support charitable causes around the world.
Beth explained that for a fraction of the money that couples may spend on flowers, for instance, a family in need could receive a new home. Instead of classic china or new bedding, a child could have the opportunity to get a decent education or go to college. The list goes on and on.
"What may be a relatively a small investment to people like myself and my clients could literally change the life of someone else," she said. "I felt like if my clients could understand the gift they would be giving, and the immense impact it would have, they would be eager to give, without question."
Currently, The Good Beginning supports more than 130 501(c)3 registered organizations in realms from education, healthcare and human rights to environmental development and the arts. Couples can either choose a charity listed or add one to which they're personally connected. As far as Beth is concerned, she can't imagine a better way to start a marriage than with a ritual of giving back, and we couldn't agree more. We hope you'll find yourself inspired when you read more of her story below.
You created The Good Beginning after traveling to Haiti, following the devastating earthquakes there in 2010. What was that experience like?
It was honestly my church that inspired me. They had taken several trips, and I just felt pulled to see what was happening there. I went alone but connected with Mission of Hope, an organization that continues to inspire my personal sense of philanthropy. It was there that I truly learned the value and purpose of citizenship and the greater calling to serve. I spent quality time with families that had very few resources, helping to fulfill the simple, everyday needs that we would otherwise take for granted.
Since then, I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world from Bali to Paris to Korea, the Philippines, Central America and, of course, throughout the United States. Time and time again, I was reminded how common the struggles I witnessed in Haiti were for people in other parts of the world, like access to clean water, proper education and civil liberties. Despite their struggles, they remained grateful to be hosting me and my couples despite how little they had to offer. As someone blessed with having more than enough, my desire to find a way to help continued to grow and I had a strong sense that others shared that same sentiment.
How do you select the charitable organizations that are featured on The Good Beginning?
When we created The Good Beginning, we designed the platform to connect users with both well-known charitable organizations and smaller groups. It was also important to remain inclusive of efforts that supported a variety of needs — from education, healthcare and human rights to environmental development and arts. We began with a curated list of about 100 organizations that we had come across during our travels, and also some longer standing charities. The number and type of organizations we support continues to grow with each and every couple that has a mission to give back.
You're just about to celebrate the company's one-year anniversary. How has this past year been?
Since our launch in early 2016, The Good Beginning's couples are projected to contribute over $250,000 to worthy causes around the world — each registry averaging between $5,000 and $8,000 that may have otherwise been spent on espresso makers and sheet sets. Couples continue to add new and meaningful organizations to The Good Beginning, helping to grow our internal database and reach even more communities in need. The Good Beginning has been embraced in the most authentic way — something I am incredibly proud to witness from my own couples and so many others around the world.
What has been your favorite Good Beginning moment thus far?
Sending the checks out to each organization every month. To witness the impact of those tangible donations, because of a something I thought might work, somehow, someday, is the best feeling in the world.
How would you encourage people who aren't getting married to get involved in charity work?
Reflect on what offers you a sense of purpose — it could be related to arts and culture, education, animal rights, the environment, etc. Volunteer Match is a great online portal to help you get connected with opportunities in your community that speak to your interests. Or, pursue other charitable avenues that involve travel or long-term giving, with organizations like Habitat for Humanity or your local religious/spiritual community. Global Aware is another great resource for finding these types of purposeful opportunities.
What charitable causes are you personally most passionate about and why?
Philanthropy has always been an integral part of my personal connection to others. Having spent many years in nonprofit administration, I saw first-hand the direct benefits of time and efforts put into a worthy cause — whether on a large corporate scale or for a small community. I'm personally drawn to causes that promote equality, human rights and educational access for all. I've spent time volunteering with the Mission of Hope in Haiti that supports the wellbeing of over 100,000 Haitians through a variety of core development, education, employment and healthcare programs. It is truly this organization that made me want to start The Good Beginning.
If you had a million dollars to donate, what would you do with it?
I would donate it to organizations with the mission of fighting for and maintaining civil rights in America. Currently many groups are vulnerable, and I would give to organizations to lessen that vulnerability.
Can you tell me about your other full-time gig, Beth Helmstetter Events?
I am the CEO and Principle Event Designer of Beth Helmstetter Events, a boutique event company specializing in intimate and approachable events throughout the world— from Paris to Bali and many beautiful destinations in between. My team and I specialize in full-service design for weddings, social events and corporate celebrations. I'm honored to have been recognized as one of the industry's top destination wedding planners in the country by Harper's Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, Martha Stewart Weddings and more.
How do you make time for all this!? What are some of your secrets for effective time management?
I've found how critical it is to compartmentalize work and life to maintain that delicate balance. Put 100 percent into your work, but be equally dedicated to nurturing the needs of your life — relationships, passions, pursuits. Give each its place and know when to switch gears.
Off the clock, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and chill out?
Very simply, I most enjoy the time spent with family and friends and exploring new parts of the world. Living in Los Angeles, there is so much happening, there's never a shortage of exciting discoveries.
Do you make New Year's resolutions? If so, what kind of goals are you setting for 2017?
Instead of "resolutions" per se, I continue to be thankful for my health, my friends and family and for a career that affords me the luxury of working in the presence of love, everyday. Working with my couples to ensure their wedding visions come to life and begin their marriage with a sense of loving purpose — that's what inspires me.
p.s. Have you met our Guest Editor for January, an oh-so-inspiring cookbook author and popular podcast host?