Donor Stories

Thank you to our philanthropic partners. Please enjoy a few donor stories below. Donors who willingly share how they achieved their philanthropic goals. Each individual donor receives our gratitude and appreciation.

Partnering with Community Foundation to Support a Family's Legacy of Serving and Giving

Three Generations of Giving

Partnering with Community Foundation to Support a Family's Legacy of Serving and Giving

George Ridenour, Community Foundation board member from 2005 through 2010, loved spending a summer evening sitting on the lawn of the Danby Federated Church listening to the Ithaca Concert Band perform the Stars and Stripes Forever and his favorite Broadway show tunes.

“George would close his eyes while listening to the band and tell me it sounded like the Boston Pops,” said his wife, Jeanette Shady.

At the end of last year’s summer concert series, Mr. Ridenour said he wanted to make a gift to the band from the family’s charitable fund, managed by Community Foundation of Tompkins County. Tragically, two months later, Mr. Ridenour died of a rare, sudden-onset brain disease.

Jeanette and their daughter, Sarah Ridenour, co-donor advisors of the fund, carried through with his wishes and recently made a grant to the Ithaca Concert Band, the first gift made by Community Foundation to the ensemble.

Mr. Ridenour was an accomplished musician himself — he played the cornet, the piano and sang in the choir at the First Congregational Church in Cayuga Heights. He and Jeanette often attended the Ithaca Concert Band’s summer concerts and became band “groupies” when Sarah, a physical therapist at Schuyler Hospital, joined the band as a flutist in 2016.

“My father loved all musical genres, especially jazz, but he had a special place in his heart for the concert band, most likely because of the range of its repertoire, from orchestral pieces to popular music,” Sarah said.

In addition to the gift to the band, Sarah and Jeanette made grants in Mr. Ridenour’s memory to two other organizations he was passionate about — the First Congregational Church to create a garden in his memory; and the Catholic Community at Ithaca College to enhance an endowment fund established last year by Mr. Ridenour and Jeanette. Sarah earned a bachelor of science in clinical exercise science and a doctorate in physical therapy from Ithaca College.

The family’s donor-advised fund was established as one of Community Foundation’s first funds in 2002, by Mr. Ridenour’s father, Layel Ridenour, who had lived at Kendal with his wife, Nan Ridenour. “His father set the pace for family philanthropy — to always give back in service and treasure if the means exist to help people,” Jeanette said.

That devotion to philanthropy and service was passed on to Mr. Ridenour who, after graduating from Ohio State University in 1961, served in Laos with the International Voluntary Service and later with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mr. Ridenour earned a master’s degree from Cornell in International Development and Southeast Asian Studies in 1971, and that same year, became director of admissions and student affairs at Cornell’s Graduate School of Business and Public Administration.

“George, like his father, wanted to instill that drive to serve and that philanthropic desire in his children,” Jeanette said. “He appointed Sarah a donor advisor of the family fund just last year and had so very much looked forward to their close collaboration.”

Jeanette, a former administrator at Cornell and in private industry, said she and Sarah are broadly discussing future plans for the family fund. “Our focus right now, however, is to finalize the gifts in George’s memory,” Jeanette said, “and then I will be excited to engage Sarah in the philanthropic legacy so firmly established by her grandfather and father.”

Community Foundation staff and board are inspired and deeply appreciative of the Ridenour-Shady family’s time, talent and treasure and extend their condolences.

Supporting the Services and Programs of Community Foundation

Building our Future

Supporting the Services and Programs of Community Foundation

Spotlight on Legacy Giving: Why I am a member of the Legacy Society, Nina K. Miller

“I have been incredibly fortunate. Although not what most people would call wealthy, I live comfortably, travel a couple of times a year, and cover my expenses without difficulty.

Ithaca has been wonderful to me; I had meaningful work at 3 organizations, formed lifelong friendships, raised 3 children and watched them flourish. Although I lost my husband 10 years ago, the glow of a marriage that was filled with love, mutual support and encouragement remains a source of strength.

When I began to ponder the future, I realize I want to express my gratitude to the community that has nurtured me. My children have solid educations, and each a good work ethic. They manage their lives effectively, and while two of the three cope with some financial stress, they are proud and independent. They have a strong commitment to philanthropy.

My financial plan provides funds to help them as they move along in their lives. Still, there seemed to me no reason to leave everything to them; I have seen the damage done to “trust fund babies” who never had to define their work goals, and for whom things come too easily. That is one of the reasons I am leaving a portion of my estate to several organizations including Community Foundation.

I have watched with great pride and pleasure as the Community Foundation has grown. I delight in the thoughtful support provided to important programs in the community. The Foundation serves as a catalyst for important community conversations, and has its finger on the pulse of local needs. Investment returns are infinitely better managed than I could hope to do on my own.

In addition, having served in human service organizations, all of which have benefited at one time or another from Community Foundation grants, I know how critical it is to have funds to pay the rent, cover salaries and other operating essentials. Too often these are not seen as “sexy”. Many donors want only to fund programs, but without the infrastructure an organization needs. Therefore, I deeply appreciate the ability to direct funds not only to compelling programs, but also to essential operating budgets.

Bequests are the easiest kind of giving. I urge you to consider how most effectively both to take care of loved ones, and to invest in a place that we all call home.”

Community Foundation is extremely grateful to Nina Miller for joining our Legacy Society. Her caring commitment to this community is long-standing, and we are so appreciative of her extended commitment through this magnificent gift.

For more information on giving opportunities, please contact Nancy Massicci, Chief Development Officer, or 607-272-9333, ext. 205.

Encouraging all to care for the natural world

Ithaca Couple Creates Environmental Education Fund

Encouraging all to care for the natural world

Gerry and Caroline Cox have taken the adage, “Think globally, act locally,” and put those words into practice by creating an environmental education fund at Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

The Coxes, who live in Ithaca, want the fund to support any organization that educates the public about ecological issues in the entire Cayuga Lake watershed. “This topic is not covered well in our educational system, but it’s important to us,” said Gerry, a former assistant dean at the Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences. “Our concern is with the long-term health of this region’s ecosystem and its inhabitants.”

The Coxes established the fund through Community Foundation of Tompkins County, a nonprofit organization that supports philanthropy to address community needs. The fund, which will begin making grants in 2019, is designed to encourage multiple donors to contribute.

“The interest in environmental grantmaking to a wide variety of local nonprofits is very great,” said George P. Ferrari, Jr., chief executive officer of Community Foundation. “We have a lot of grant seekers asking us about it. Yet we receive the fewest gifts with that designation.”

In addition to the environment and sustainability, Community Foundation’s grant areas include: community building, education, health and human services, and arts and culture.

Gerry said he became increasingly concerned about environmental education after he spent 10 years researching and writing a book about the ecology of hunting. “While working on my book, I realized that our common definition of ecology is inadequate,” he said. “We need to enlarge it from the scientific study of organisms in an ecosystem to a broader definition that includes our experiences within it. Just as no man is an island, we are part of an ecological whole. I’ve been thinking about how to try to make this inclusive change come about, and education seems to be one of the best ways.”

Caroline, who worked in development at Cornell and Ithaca College, said they turned to Community Foundation to create an environmental education fund because they wanted to encourage other donors to contribute as well.

“This is a way to say to others who have this interest, ‘You too can help make this happen,’ “ said Caroline, a former Community Foundation board member. “It isn’t about us; it’s about the opportunity and the need.”

Gerry said he hopes the fund will help residents develop a new perspective on their role in the environment surrounding Cayuga Lake. “Ultimately, we hope that this new fund will support the vital work of the regional organizations that educate the public about becoming stewards of our watershed,” he said. “The fund can help influence what happens here if others learn more about the environment and realize their own stake in it.”

CLICK HERE to make a gift to the Environmental Education Fund

quote George Washington

Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.