Photography by Gabriel Cano.

You don’t have to write a check big enough to get your name on a building to be a great philanthropist. Swiss Avenue neighbor Bob Hopkins assures us that philanthropy isn’t all about the money in his new book “Philanthropy Misunderstood.” 

“The purpose of the book is to redefine what people think of as philanthropy,” Hopkins says. “I had the idea that the richer you were, the greater philanthropist you were. I started a magazine and realized [there were people] not being featured because they didn’t have a lot of money to give, but they did thousands of hours volunteering. They did more than those who wrote the check.”

Hopkins grew up in the world of philanthropy. As a 5-year-old, he remembers delivering groceries to a food-insecure family in his hometown of Garden City, Kansas. But volunteering didn’t become his passion until decades later, after recovering from alcoholism. 

He went to work for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and volunteered to talk about the dangers of alcohol at high schools. He did such a good job, he was named the council’s volunteer of the year and was hired as director of development for the organization. He learned to raise money and became a full-time philanthropist. 

“The world of philanthropy, once you get the bug, you know what it feels like to finish a project,” Hopkins says. “You get hugs and kisses and thank yous. They say, ‘Want to do it again?’ and you say, ‘Yeah, I do.’ You get a lot of good feelings.”

Through his work, Hopkins met Don Wilks, founder of The Global Community for Education. After trekking to Everest Base Camp, Wilks partnered with his sherpa to build schools in Nepal. Hopkins started fundraising for the organization and helped build Nepalese schools for more than a decade. His work has also taken him to Mexico, India and Bangladesh, where he served as a visiting professor teaching philanthropy courses.

In 1996, Hopkins started a magazine called Philanthropy in Texas, which evolved into Philanthropy World. The 18-page magazine grew to 120 pages and told stories of volunteers doing good work around the world. 

“Philanthropy Misunderstood” is the culmination of Hopkins’ work as a philanthropist and magazine publisher. The 256-page coffee table book highlights 108 tales of people who helped change the world. It includes several East Dallas neighbors, such as the late Dallas preservationist Virginia McAlester, former state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt and origami artists Isabelle and Katherine Adams.  

“It’s an opportunity to pay back all those people who have given to me over the years,” Hopkins says. “It’s to motivate. People tell me all the time that there are so many people doing so much good. You think everyone is volunteering, and that’s not the case. The reason is because they don’t know what to do.”

There is no shortage of need in a world still recovering physically and economically from the coronavirus. Hopkins has remained active locally, fundraising for arts nonprofits and partnering with Dallas ISD to provide students with hotspots for remote learning. He encourages those who are able to get involved by donating to a food pantry, picking up trash in the neighborhood or doing good in some other way. 

“I want everybody to know that volunteering is the same thing as philanthropy,” Hopkins says. “A volunteer is a philanthropist — someone who changes the world.” 


Featured neighbors 

Isabelle and Katherine Adams

Paper for Water

The sisters have raised $1.6 million by making origami ornaments to build 200 water wells in 20 countries. In 2017, the family traveled the world for eight months to visit their water projects now pumping clean water for the thirsty. 

Harryette Ehrhardt

Former state representative

The four-term state representative also served as a Dallas ISD teacher, principal and school board trustee. As a trustee, she helped change a DISD policy that would fire all LGBTQ educators. Ehrhardt is still active in political causes, gay rights and public education. 

Virginia McAlester

Dallas preservationist

McAlester led the effort to make Swiss Avenue the city’s first historic district. She later became a founding member of Preservation Dallas and Friends of Fair Park. Her book, “A Field Guide to American Houses,” sold millions of copies and proved a valuable resource for preservation groups.

Anja Woodson

Swiss Avenue neighbor

For years, Woodson helped organize the Mother’s Day Home Tour to raise money that supports the safety and beauty of the neighborhood. She was also involved with an after-school program called Dallas Scores and currently volunteers at Nexus, an in-house facility where women can receive treatment and counseling for substance abuse. 

Jackson Price

Children’s advocate 

Price was born with an extra digit on his hand that had to be removed at Scottish Rite for Children. When he was 7, he wanted to buy a $3,500 prosthetic hand for a child at the hospital. He sold lemonade outside his Swiss Avenue home during the Mother’s Day Home Tour and raised more than $3,650. 

Ruth Altshuler

Full-time philanthropist and fundraiser

Altshuler grew up on Swiss Avenue and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. She helped raise millions of dollars for charities, including the Salvation Army, Communities Foundation of Texas, Southwestern Medical Foundation, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Dallas Summer Musicals and Laura Bush’s Foundation for America’s Libraries. One of her defining public service projects was organizing the city’s ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She died in 2017 at age 93.

Purchase the book for $45 at After production costs, all proceeds will be given to charity. 

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