A Suffolk-centric philanthropy

Published 7:47 pm Saturday, December 19, 2009

In its third year of operation, the Suffolk Foundation continues its founding work of supporting the charitable needs of the Suffolk area. Distributing $43,800 in grants this week, the philanthropic organization — in the face of a grinding recession that has frustrated nonprofit organizations around the country — made good on its commitment to enhance the quality of life for the people in and around Suffolk.

Foundation leaders said they had to narrow their focus for this year’s scheduled competitive grants to “supporting primary human needs and services,” meaning that healthcare, education and housing were among the main beneficiaries. But the definition of primary human needs was broad enough to include, for instance, the important work done by the Edmarc Hospice for Children, which provides counseling and support for families of children with incurable life-limiting illnesses, and the Tidewater Youth Services Foundation, which will use its grant for gang-intervention programs.

The Suffolk Foundation was started with the idea that many contributors pooling their financial resources together can have a stronger impact on their community than a few operating and giving separately. The nonprofit organization now has assets of about $1.5 million, with another million dollars pledged, according to information maintained on its Web site.

In addition to the annual competitive grants distribution, the Suffolk Foundation supports the community with two scholarships. Its first grants benefitted the victims of Suffolk’s tornadoes through the work of organizations such as the Salvation Army, Mercy Chefs, God’s Pit Crew, Samaritan’s Purse and Suffolk’s Open Door Church, all of which received money from the Foundation’s Tornado Relief Fund. That fund distributed more than $185,000 to help in the recovery effort.

There are so many legitimate needs among nonprofit organizations in the area that it sometimes can be hard to know the most effective way of offering monetary support. Many people have special and specific causes they like to support, and they choose to give their money directly to help with those causes. Others, however, understand that the variety and number of needs out there can mean that some worthy causes are left behind by such a targeted, individual approach to philanthropy.

The Suffolk Foundation is a great community resource for those charitable organizations that don’t necessarily get the kind of exposure likely to attract major contributions. By aggregating donated money, vetting grant requests and distributing funds each year to deserving community nonprofit organizations large and small, the Suffolk Foundation has become a truly significant member of the community.