Grandmother for Social Justice

Sharon Morton of Deerfield fosters intergenerational giving back.

At the tender age of 7, Michael already considered himself a philanthropist and social activist. Each year, through the auspices of the MIMAST Philanthropy Club—and in partnership with its founder, his grandmother, Sharon Morton—young Michael, his brother, Steven, and cousin Matthew carefully decide how to spend their “philanthropy budget.”

One year, Michael spotted some mittens on sale for only 65 cents. He consulted with his team and the three boys spent $100 to buy as many mittens as they could to distribute to the poor.

It’s exactly what Morton had in mind when she created MIMAST, named after her grandsons, Michael, 12, Matthew, 13, and Steven, 15 (she now has two granddaughters as well, Jordyn and Gillian). Morton deposited $125 in a “philanthropy” bank account for each child, created certificates on her computer declaring them “junior philanthropists” and charter members of the MIMAST Philanthropy Club, and asked each new member to raise his hand and pledge, “I promise to make the world a better place.”

“The Club broadens my relationship with my grandchildren beyond movies and cookies, and teaches them values that are important to me,” Morton says.

MIMAST was so meaningful that Morton expanded the concept and created Grandparents for Social Action (GFSA), an organization that encourages seniors to engage in social action and teach their grandchildren, through word and deed, that they have a responsibility to perform acts of kindness, justice and world repair.

Since Morton served as director of Jewish Education at the Am Shalom Synagogue in Glencoe for many years, and traveled the world working on social action programs, growing a philanthropic network was easy for her.

In her retirement, Morton is studying to become a rabbi and she has grown GFSA to a national level. The group’s website offers a free monthly newsletter that includes philanthropic activities and ideas for grandparents and their grandchildren. It has been recognized as one of the best websites for grandparents.

“It’s powerful for a variety of reasons,” she says of the project. “It develops a grandparent network, encourages them to volunteer and gives them significant things to do with their grandchildren.”

To learn more about Grandparents for Social Action, visit