Why did you choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia on your philanthropy?I first learned about the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia from a dear friend who previously worked with the organization. She adored my husband J., and when I was looking for a timely way to create a legacy for him, she thought of Community Foundation and we set up a meeting with Megan Niewold. When Megan told me about the Community Foundation’s mission and vision, I felt it aligned seamlessly with the more beautiful and inclusive world that J. had worked to create every day of his life.
You have a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation. Can you tell us about that fund – why you established it, and how you use it to support the community?I established the fund because I wanted to provide a structured way to keep J.’s bright light shining for the vast community of people who loved and adored him. J. was a kind man who made it his life’s ambition to do good things for others. He used Benjamin Franklin’s words, “What Good Shall I Do This Day,” as a guide to his everyday life. His boundless energy, joy, and enthusiasm were wonders to behold and he inspired me every day. J. loved theater, music, and the arts. He was very generous with his knowledge and talent, and he felt that education was the best way to share them and lift others up.
The fund will be used to support the causes and non-profit organizations that do “good things” and was near and dear to his heart. Locally, J. was an active board member of Signature Theatre for over 16 years. Also, he was on the board of St. Coletta School, which serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and was established in Alexandria. J. was also active in KEEN, an organization that empowers youth with disabilities. More widely, J. had recently joined the board of Ballet X — which is a premier contemporary ballet company in Philadelphia with a focus on developing new works. J. loved to create art, and with the Fund I hope to help the ‘Community of J.” continue to do so.
What does the Fund mean to you and the legacy of J.?With this donor-advised fund, I hope to keep J.’s giving spirit and his boundless energy alive by continuing to support the things that he held most dear. I would like the J. Watkins’ Fund to spread the message of kindness and inclusiveness to the world and to create beauty, as J. did every day. I feel that the fund can have an impact in these ways by supporting new projects and artists in their efforts to enrich all of us.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?I am pleased and humbled that the Fund has already bestowed several meaningful grants to J.'s beloved institutions. I am working to keep the Fund going strong so that with J.’s inspiration, we can work together to realize his vision.
Learn more about the J. Watkins Fund for Arts and Education here.