Why did you choose to help the Community Foundation establish the Rachel Harrell Memorial Fund?When my wife passed away in 2013, I felt a compulsion to do something to help others in a way that would honor her. We (Rachel's mother and I) looked at several options, including starting a foundation. It became apparent quickly that this was not realistic. With a requirement to have a board of directors and a long process to become recognized as a 501(c)(3), I became discouraged. Then, through a local attorney, I heard about the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. Giving up some autonomy to gain the substantial benefits of partnering with the Foundation through a donor-advised fund seemed like a perfect compromise. Thus, the Rachel Harrell Memorial Fund was born.
What legacy do you hope it will leave our region, particularly since it is an endowment and part of the Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia?We began The Rachel Harrell Memorial Fund to benefit single mothers and their children, victims of domestic violence, abused and neglected children, child and youth development, children’s health, and other causes that help improve the lives of women and children. These were the causes that Rachel would have been (and was) particularly concerned about. In part, this is because she was a single mother herself and faced difficult times when her children were young. After her passing, we wanted to extend Rachel's reach and give her the credit. Also, having a named fund helped spur giving from those who knew and loved her.
How has your donor advised fund helped you achieve your philanthropic goals?The Fund has directed grants to several charities, but our most successful have been churches. Churches are able to develop targeted programs to help community members directly. One hundred percent of the funds we have granted to the two churches we have supported have gone to community members in severe need. Often the church (one in particular now) gets referrals from battered women's shelters and, thus, benefits from multiple layers of vetting and determinations of merit. The following comments are typical:
"Ms. Johnson (not her real name) was recently assisted with an eviction because she was unable to return to work immediately after an assault during her pregnancy, having her baby, and recovering. When she was notified that the Rachel Harrell Memorial Fund would pay the eviction off and enable her to save funds towards a new place when she finished our transitional housing program, Ms. Johnson was overwhelmed with elation, joyfully crying and spoke of how humbling it is to be assisted by people who don’t even know her." Please join me in supporting this new component of the Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia.