Charity Begins at Home: Loving a Community Inside and Out

Malcolm Goodridge, left, great-grandson of George C. Boldt Sr., with the first recipients of the George C. Boldt Scholarship at Boldt Castle in 2019.

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi 

The vast majority of donors I am fortunate to work with at the Community Foundation live in the region we are chartered to serve: Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties. Northern New York residents have a long tradition of supporting a wide variety of charitable causes and the nonprofit organizations that carry out meaningful work. The residents of this area are the bedrock of making the right things happen. Without the commitment and generosity of local investors, enhancements to our life here wouldn’t become reality. The things every community needs to thrive would be absent. These enable the best in education, health and wellness, arts and culture, environment, animal welfare, history and recreation. 

    I have a front-row seat to witness the many acts of love and generosity from within and afar. I often wonder if the citizens of the area are aware that their leadership by example enables and encourages significant investments from a distance. Perhaps one of the untold stories of community giving is the frequency and power of philanthropy from those who have roots here but live elsewhere. Each year, many donors who live 100 miles or more away from the tri-county area join forces with local residents to create a powerful multiplier effect that enables our nonprofits to extend their reach. 

    There is a strong and loyal base of donors whose lives have in some way intersected here and live elsewhere yet make the decision to broadly support their hometown through the Community Foundation. Other donors from afar are more directed in their giving. We are often contacted by out-of-area individuals who are thinking of their legacy and working with us as they write their wills to forever recognize their love for the area. 

    In my first few years with the Community Foundation, a Lowville native living a time zone away created a permanent endowment to benefit Lewis County. That fund has since benefited several nonprofit organizations and made meaningful programs and projects possible. Last month, another person with Lewis County roots flew here to discuss a multi-year gift that would support programming through a Community Foundation educational fund established to enhance learning at the school where his mother once taught. With great affection for this area, a woman from the Rochester area entrusted us to steward a bequest creating a fund to forever benefit vulnerable local women and children. 

    One of the largest annual investments in local students comes from a General Brown graduate who works in Manhattan and lives in Pennsylvania. Despite the distance, he has combined forces with local funders to provide more than $1 million in full-tuition scholarships. 

    Two years ago, I received a call from someone who had traveled more than 1,000 miles to attend a family reunion. While he never lived one day here, his great-grandfather had a special connection to the area. He teamed up with local donors to endow a permanent scholarship for multiple students a year, forever. While the generosity has been amazing, the success of the program has inspired him to commit additional contributions, hoping to match local residents to ultimately touch more local lives. Another donor from the Midwest has endowed two permanent Community Foundation funds to forever support their favorite St. Lawrence River charitable organizations. 

    What is the common bond? Together, residents and nonresidents love this place. They know the need is great and their ability to make a difference here can be greater. The course of their lives has been positively affected by the region and is a powerful motivator of their choice to be generous to this special place on the map. They recognize the example set by those who call this place home. 

    It is true, charity begins at home. The good news is that it doesn’t end there. Those who are community builders and do what they can to make living here better for all should know that the leadership they demonstrate encourages additional investments from afar. By combining forces, together, we will help ensure our time here is made better by the way generosity changes the lives of those giving and receiving. Ultimately, they are often one and the same.