June 26, 2018
Recently, former Community Foundation Board members and staff reunited to reminsce about the 40 year history of the Foundation.

Back when Tysons Corner was nothing but parking lots and the Metro’s silver line was a plan that had not yet come to fruition, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia was born.

A former insurance agent named Maynard DeWitt came to Washington in 1954 after being discharged from the Army. DeWitt was dedicated to making a difference in the region, and started the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in 1978 along with Florence Townsend, Paul Lanzillotta, and Jim Wordsworth.

Jim Wordsworth has been deeply involved in the Community Foundation since the beginning, serving in a number of roles at the Foundation over the years including serving on the Board of Directors from 1992 – 2005.

“I have been involved so long, and I am so happy to see how far we have come. For years we worked so hard to achieve one million dollars in donations. We continued to have meetings and try to get donations – we really wanted to make a difference in Northern Virginia,”said Wordsworth.

40th board coffee 1Former Board Members Reunite to Celebrate 40th Anniversary

Today, the Community Foundation has directed more than $50 million charitable dollars to people in need across our region and beyond, and has more than 200 donor advised funds.

Wordsworth reflected that in the early years, times were tough. “Once, when we were setting up the organization, we received notice on a Tuesday that we had to be out of the office by Friday. We used a truck to move three files cabinets, and temporarily relocated our small office and team. Florence Townsend served as the President of the Foundation up until 1994, and for many years she served without a salary,” said Wordsworth.

Convinced they could make a difference in Northern Virginia, these early members started to connect with the local community to find out how they could immediately make a positive impact.

“We talked to the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Squad, and they said they needed a special tape measure to measure the size of a child who was injured – it would help determine how to treat the child based on their size such as needle size and so on. We worked really hard to raise $40,000 to purchase these tape measures for every Fire and Rescue Squad in Fairfax County. It was difficult to raise the money at that time, but we did it,” said Wordsworth.

Paul Lanzillotta, Board of Director member from 1987-2012, and Investment Committee member for many years, said that, “At the beginning, it was very much a struggle and a very small group. It’s amazing how far the Community Foundation has come and how it operates at such a higher level now, with such as large asset base.”

James Graham, Board of Directors member from 1992-2006, agrees that, “We got things done in those days with very limited resources. But however difficult it was, we enjoyed working together to make a difference in our community.”

The early board members have maintained close relationships over the years. Lee Corey, Board of Directors member from 1994-2006, agrees and adds that, “What is and has been amazing about this original, passionate group of board members is that we remain close friends to this day.” Corey states that early board members are, “still connected to the community and inspired by the work that affects the lives of families in this area.”

Corey recalls being involved in past Gala events and the massive amount of work that was involved in making the Gala a success. “One year we were without an event planner, and I called my friend Betsy Frantz, (President, Virginia Hospital Center Health System Foundation; VP & CDO, Virginia Hospital Center Health System; founder, Leadership Arlington), and we worked with our small team at the Community Foundation to hold a fantastic Gala event that raised more money that year than we had ever raised,” said Corey. “It was a great feeling,” she adds.

Another program Lee and Wordsworth recall is the establishment of the “Grandfather’s Program.” The Grandfather’s Program was established to help children without a father to select a match and they would have dinner with their “Grandfather” at JR’s Restaurant in Tysons. “I can’t help but thinking that this program hopefully positively affected many lives over the years,” said Wordsworth.

Richard Duvall, Board of Directors member from 1999-2013 and former Board Chairman, commented on the Community Foundation’s remarkable growth in recent years, stating that “The Community Foundation has positioned itself to be a significant source of funding for local nonprofits meeting critical needs in Northern Virginia.”

Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO of the Community Foundation, agrees. “The Community Foundation’s impact in Northern Virginia has never been greater. There are many reasons for this, but it all comes down to our incredible donors – people who love this place we call home and support our region with ever increasing levels of giving.”

Ellsworth also points to the Opportunity Index that the Community Foundation launched in February. “The Opportunity Index is an incredibly useful and easy to use data resource comprised of several key indicators reflecting the wellbeing our region’s economy, community health, civic life, and educational outcomes,” she says. “Creating and launching the Opportunity Index for Northern Virginia was the Community Foundation’s 40th Anniversary gift to the region. The 26 data indicators that comprise the Opportunity Index help advance the understanding of local needs and interests at a very granular level. Updated annually by the Community Foundation, the Opportunity Index is a critical resource for community knowledge and strategic giving.

Ellsworth stated that the history and work of many passionate individuals have led the Foundation to its current position. “You don’t get to 40 years without an army of dedicated, loving, passionate, and inspired people helping in every way possible to nurture this organization and help it realize its full potential.”

To honor its 40th Anniversary, the Community Foundation is hosting its annual Raise the Region Gala on Friday, October 5, 2018. The Community Foundation plans a very special celebration and recognition event for all who have contributed to the growth and success of the organization over the years.

In honor of its 40th anniversary, the Community Foundation also launched a significant planned giving campaign in October of 2017 to help grow The Permanent Fund for Northern Virginia, a permanent community endowment that will help shape our region’s future.

“This critical endowment will respond to need and seed innovation in Northern Virginia for years to come.” said Kevin DeSanto, current Chair of the Board of Directors. “We launched the campaign at the 2017 Raise the Region Gala last October with $3.4 million, and it currently stands at over $9 million in current and planned gifts.”

In the last few years, the Community Foundation has also focused on innovative solutions to economic and social development. “We launched the Innovation Breakfast Series 3 years ago. The breakfasts always draw a large crowd of local business and nonprofit leaders, government employees, local elected officials, and others interested in learning about the role philanthropy can play in economic development,” said Ellsworth. “We bring in speakers from outside the region and invite panels to discuss and describe innovative efforts that have succeeded elsewhere in the country. It’s been a fascinating learning lab that has launched local efforts to address complex social issues in new ways, right here in our own backyard,” she said.

To learn more about the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Raise the Region Gala please visit www.cfnova.org/gala.

To see pictures of those included in this article please visit http://bit.ly/2JaHwIA.

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia works to help identify and meet the most critical needs of our community. If you would like to make a donation now, please visit our Donate Now page https://www.cfnova.org/donate and explore ways to contribute to the most critical needs of our community.