Donor Stories

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

Stamie Despo, Board Member serving on the Development Committee

Trusting in the Community Foundation

Stamie Despo, Board Member serving on the Development Committee

I moved to Ithaca in May of 2020. I remember it clearly because it snowed on moving day, which was Mother’s day and we were in shorts, moving from Charlotte, NC. It was a bit daunting thinking about moving during COVID and not knowing a single person in Ithaca. I knew that I needed to find my people and get involved in my new community. I joined Rotary and attended a virtual meeting where I met George Ferrari and heard about the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. I knew right away that I had found an organization that was making a local impact and I had found some of my people in the staff and volunteers.

It was appealing to get involved with an organization that has been in existence for over 20 years, which has a mission to bring resources and people together to build a more equitable county. An organization that inspires immediate investments into our communities as well as establishing gifts for the future. I offered my services as a volunteer who has experience in the nonprofit world and joined the development committee. After a year of meetings where I learned so much from George and the staff, I was asked to join the board.

For my husband and I, philanthropy is about the 6 T’s – trust, time, talent, treasure, testimony, ties.

Trust: I trust George’s leadership and am constantly learning from him, I trust the board members who bring a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge. I trust our grant making process that awards grants with the expectation of specific, local results. I trust as a donor that our money is being invested, managed in a fiscally responsible way, and stewarded. I appreciate the impact dashboards, stories, and annual reports that are created and shared.

It is my honor and privilege to connect the people and the work of the community foundation through my professional and personal ties. The development committee is tasked with looking for connections and possibilities to strengthen our community, to seek young and diverse volunteers. This committee provides the fuel and the expertise that enables grantmaking and local impact. We take time to think about current and future avenues of funding that include individuals, companies, and other resources. We are the connectors that make introductions, share social media networks and invite people to learn about the Community Foundation. We encourage participation and listen to learn what drives a potential donor. We solicit for gifts, make asks and thank people for their gifts.

Time: It is our most precious resource and crucial to the success of the Community Foundation. Like the many volunteers, spending my time to attend events such as this, participating on committees and being a member on the board is important to me and valuable to the Community Foundation.

Talent: By volunteering my expertise as a former teacher, nonprofit executive leader, and professional fundraiser, I am sharing my gifts and expertise.
Treasure: My husband and I plan our philanthropy together. We give what we can, when we can, and we commit to making a multi-year gift.

Testimony: It is my honor to stand before you and share my story. I enjoy meeting with other donors and prospective donors to learn about their story, their why. Sharing our stories help others get involved and inspire others to participate.

As I mentioned, my husband and I think of our philanthropy and giving plan around these 6 T’s. All of the T’s are vital to the Community Foundation’s success. We are all philanthropists. Let’s continue to make a difference. Giving matters to you, the Community Foundation, and the people we serve in our community.

Diane Bailey and Sushil Verma

Welcome To Community Philanthropy!

Diane Bailey and Sushil Verma

“When we moved here about four years ago, we began exploring our local environment and ways to give to our community.

Community Foundation of Tompkins County was a natural choice for us: their values resonated with ours and we appreciated both the diversity of their funded programs and their strong stewardship.”  Diane Bailey

Bob and Susan Gabriel and Jen Gabriel

Family Philanthropy - Working With Others

Bob and Susan Gabriel and Jen Gabriel

“I don’t have to convince anyone here that this region is full of magic. The stunning glacier-formed lakes, gorges, and waterfalls. The rich history of the people, including Haudenosaunee. The ability to feel isolated while also feeling exposed to so many art and culture and educational opportunities.

It’s all of that. And it’s more. This community is special. I didn’t see it – I couldn’t see it – when I was young and ready to be free from everything familiar. I had to leave in order to understand that this is where I belong. I’m guessing that resonates with others here too.

Shortly after returning to Ithaca, I was hungry to be involved. One of the first things I did was to get involved with the Community Foundation, first as a donor and then as a Board member. Being a part of this organization allowed me to be a part of the community in a way I hadn’t felt since my childhood.

Being an active member of a community means participating in the ways that make a difference to your neighbors, colleagues, and friends. It also means working to identify barriers, challenges, and hardships that your community faces – and then working with others to overcome them.

A true community understands that when we lift one, we lift all.

I’m proud to be a part of the Community Foundation and all it represents. You are too, or you wouldn’t be here.

I’m here tonight with my parents, who established a donor advised fund a couple of years ago. It’s a way for us to be able to give back to organizations we value. It’s also a way for us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

We could manage our family’s philanthropy differently. We could identify the organizations we care about and make a decision to support their needs as they arise and our means allow. But having a donor advised fund allows us to think bigger and plan better. It means we are making a commitment to THIS community and THESE needs.

The Community Foundation provides the structure and support for that to happen. Their work allows us to understand the bigger picture of our beloved county and how we fit into it as individuals and a family. Establishing a donor advised fund AND continuing to support the organization with annual gifts helps the Community Foundation thrive.”  ~ Excerpt of remarks shared by Jennifer Gabriel, 2022 Philanthropy Magnified Reception, Cayuga Lake

Gene and Jeanne Yarussi

IRA Gifts Can Also Reduce Your Taxes

Gene and Jeanne Yarussi

You can help charities at a time when the need has never been greater. If you’ve reached the age where you need to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your traditional IRAs, you can reduce taxes by donating that money to charity.

Gene Yarussi has been supporting local charities, like the Community Foundation, for years. He doesn’t remember how long ago he started making IRA distributions, but he likes to help local nonprofits this way because he says, “I am lucky to have the means.”

Would you like to make a larger charitable gift than you could if you donated cash? Would you like to reduce your taxes? If so, you have to be sure to follow the rules carefully.

1. How QCDs Work: A charitable IRA rollover or qualified charitable distribution (QCD) allows individuals who are taking their RMD (usually 70½ years old or older*) to donate any amount (no more than $100,000 total) to charities directly from a taxable IRA instead of taking their RMD. As a result, donors may avoid being pushed into higher income tax brackets and prevent phaseouts of other tax deductions, (and other limitations, please ask your accountant).

The value of charitable gifts that can be deducted from a tax return usually ranges from 20 – 60 % of a donor’s adjusted gross income. This AGI-based limit does not apply to QCDs, allowing donors to make larger gifts! For these reasons, a QCD can potentially enable a donor to give a bigger charitable gift than they could if they just donated cash or other assets.

2. Here’s how you do it: It takes just three distribution steps to give retirement assets: (1) Find the form on your IRA custodians website, (2) Fill out the form naming Community Foundation as recipient using our tax info (below), (3) Mail the form in.

Community Foundation tax ID or EIN#16-1587553 and NY State Charities registration #06-80-93.

Gene has a team of financial advisors who looked into the long-range expenses of how much he needs to take care of himself, his wife, kids and help the community he lives in. “I am fortunate that I have this benefit and I have chosen to do good with it. I encourage others to do as well, if you are able.”

Note: IRS does NOT allow IRA Charitable distributions to donor advised funds; all other fund types (operational, designated, and field of interest) are eligible. Please call us or your professional advisor.

* Plan participants and IRA owners who reach the age of 70 ½ in 2019, the prior rule applies and the first RMD must start by April 1, 2020. For plan participants and IRA owners who reach age 70 ½ in 2020, the first RMD must start by April 1 of the year after the plan participant or IRA owner reaches 72.

The Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund

Changing Lives One Book At A Time

The Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund

Bernard Carl Rosen (1922-2009) was a sociologist and Cornell professor who had an indefatigable curiosity about human beings and the human condition. He often studied issues related to BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) populations, class, and achievement. Indeed, one of Professor Rosen’s most consuming questions was, “who is destined to be a winner, who a loser, and why?” He attended college on the GI Bill after serving in the US Army during WWII. And after his passing he may have left his greatest gift — a generous bequest to establish the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. This fund allows public libraries in Cayuga, Cortland, Seneca, Tioga, and Tompkins counties, all the libraries in the five counties of the Finger Lakes Library System, to apply for grants to create/continue programming for youth.

Libraries are sacred spaces. Local community leader and business owner, Patrice Lockert Anthony, owner and president of Black Label Consulting shares the following story. “My mom was a single mother to four children. She also had purpose, passion, and ambition. She went from GED to a BA in psychology, to a Ph.D. in education (and until she won a Ford Fellowship for graduate studies, she also worked full time as a keypunch operator for IBM). She studied in public libraries, completed assignments, reports, and did her research in the libraries, so that’s where we were, too. My mom had only one hard and fast rule for the staff; our curiosity wasn’t to be censored. Answers might be censored, but not the books we chose, and not our questions.”

We want to stimulate young minds, encourage and build their intellectual curiosity and capacity. Stronger communities are built when we invest in building strong minds. Strong minds solve problems (sometimes before they can exist). Strong capable minds build bridges to other communities. Libraries, with adequate funding might partner with churches, schools, school districts, hospitals, cafeteria staff, theatres, local restaurants, hotels, social services, etc. There isn’t an organization that libraries can’t partner with to uplift youth (including those serving juvenile “offenders” and organizations working to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. Open their minds, and we’ll open their world, and in turn; our youth will serve their communities. And as the great equalizer — it won’t matter what race, color, ethnicity, age, gender, or economic status. Libraries are open to all.

This Cycle Receives Grant Applications in Early 2024.

Joel and Cathy Zumoff

The Ease of Stock Gifts

Joel and Cathy Zumoff

“Cathy and I each set up a Fund with the Community Foundation to provide support for areas of interest in Tompkins County that we consider to be important. We decided to provide the initial endowment for these funds by transferring appreciated stock from our investment portfolio to the Foundation. In this manner we were able to both take an income tax deduction to a charitable agency and to avoid paying substantial capital gains taxes on stock we had held for twenty-five years. It was very easy to accomplish this task. All that was necessary to transfer the stock was to write a letter to our financial advisor and ask him to move the stock from our portfolio to an account provided by the Community Foundation. We have also used this mechanism in subsequent years to add additional monies to our funds. We recommend this method to anyone who has the resources to support the Community Foundation in a substantial manner.”

Please use this FORM to inform us of your stock gift.



  • STORY TO SHARE? Do you have a story to share? We'd like to hear from you.
quote Community Foundation Donor Advisor

As life goes on, you have an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve been given and what you want to move forward.