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!

Establish An Endowment for your Community

Every year, the team at Community Foundation connects people like you with our expertise in accounting, investment, and grantmaking to establish endowment funds that support the needs of our region in perpetuity (that means forever 😊).

As the hub of philanthropy in our community we serve you. We connect donors like you to community needs you care about. You can make a charitable gift, which can be added to gifts from others, that supports a range of community needs now and in the decades ahead. That’s the purpose of an endowment: to provide a steady stream of dollars, far into the future, to meet community needs as they arise.

“Endowment” refers to a designated pool of assets that we prudently invest so that a modest portion (usually based on a percentage) of the assets are distributed each year to charitable causes. The rest of the assets remain invested to grow in perpetuity. This growth, in turn, helps the endowment provide even more support each year to the causes for which it was established.

Setting up an endowment fund is easy and our team is happy to assist you with the paperwork and planning to make your gift of cash, stock, or real estate. You’ll be eligible for a charitable tax deduction in the year you make the transfer to establish the fund. You can make future transfers to your endowment fund each year, or as part of your bequest, to achieve your tax and estate planning goals.

You can name the endowment fund anything you want, such as the “Lopez Family Fund,” or something more anonymous such as the “Fund for Our Future.” In addition, our team is happy to keep you informed about the positive change in the community that is occurring thanks to the distributions from the endowment fund you’ve established. We can continue to keep your children and grandchildren informed, too, beyond your lifetime. In this way, your legacy continues through the generations.

Our team is made up of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals who understand our community and build ongoing personal relationships with the people working at the region’s mission-driven organizations. Our board and staff are committed to keeping a finger on the pulse of the region’s greatest needs and maintaining a deep knowledge of the charitable organizations that are meeting these needs every day.

We look forward to working with you to support our community and your favorite charitable causes for generations to come! Contact Chief Development Officer Nancy Massicci at for more information.

      David Fernandez, Cayuga Landscape

Local Business Supports Community Philanthropy

David Fernandez, Cayuga Landscape

David Fernandez shares, “Cayuga Landscape is proud to have been a business sponsor for the Community Foundation for many years because of the philanthropic focus on groups in our city and county most in need of support.

As an employer of about 50 people, I see the many needs of families with children, for example, who may be pulled in many directions and be financially stretched. It’s surprising to meet people in our midst who may not have a single person in their family circle from whom they could borrow a modest sum from in an emergency. Women, who bear the largest burden in child care and keeping homes together, have a diverse set of needs. We have supported the Women’s Fund within the Community Foundation, as a result.

Overall, giving and support within our own community provides business owners a feeling that they are truly giving back to the very community that supports them. The Community Foundation fits this role better than any other charitable organization in Tompkins.”

Mike Zak and Bill Maxwell

Expanding Internships - A Gamechanger At GIAC

Mike Zak and Bill Maxwell

William (Bill) Maxwell, Cornell Engineering Professor Emeritus, has been a member of the GIAC (Greater Ithaca Activities Center) family for over 15 years. Recently, Mike Zak, a former student of his wanted to honor Professor Maxwell for the impact he had on his life. The result of Mike’s most generous gift is an endowment fund at Community Foundation of Tompkins County to forever support GIAC’s internship program named in honor of Bill Maxwell.

Bill was inspired and has also created a companion fund, the William and Judith Maxwell Internship Fund, to honor his wife Judith, which expands the internship program even further.

GIAC Director, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, spoke about GIAC’s internship program history and how the new funds will extend help to more students. Prior to the program, McBean-Clairborne said the lack of funds made it difficult for the center to provide multiple internships to students at the time.

“I fell on my knees, when I heard of the new funds, and there were tears falling,” McBean-Clairborne said. “We have been rubbing pennies every year to place at least one person somewhere when we have four or five who are asking for an internship. So, it is making the biggest difference already for us.”

Mike Zak said, “I was, perhaps, Bill’s first intern, in a sense. Professor Maxwell took a risk which did a lot for me (a former student) a long time ago. To express my happiness, I am proud to create these Maxwell Internships at GIAC, in the hopes that Tompkins County can take more and more risks on youth. Young men and women who have yet to establish themselves, who perhaps just need a chance to see how the world works, can find a place in it for themselves, can test the waters, and then go on and prosper as citizens who contribute to the greater common good.”

Internships are a proven gateway to jobs. It’s widely acknowledged that paying interns is a critical first step to addressing barriers to access for historically underrepresented students who otherwise could not afford to spend their non-school hours working for free.

Paid internships can build networks and connections. Internships are an important path to a career.

One past recipient, Xavier Bourne (pictured above), held a paid internship at Ithaca International Airport. Xavier’s passion for aviation can be heard when he said the GIAC internship allowed him to “learn airline contracts and airport management which strengthened my interests.” He carried that experience into a career as he is now a Delta Airlines Analytic Specialist keeping people connected to the world.

Mike Zak shared, “This gift acknowledges a long-time champion for the youth of greater Ithaca, William Maxwell, who has changed the lives of many, including mine, and I am excited about how these internships may change the lives of young men and women in greater Ithaca.”

Take a chance – there are big benefits to taking time to facilitate these connections:  Data suggests that both young and people of color are particularly likely to report feeling lonely in the workplace. Informal relationship-building will not solve all of this, but it can bolster employee engagement. Interns just testing the waters in the world of work may not share this understanding of how to build or mobilize networks. And according to research from America’s Promise Alliance, young people of color and from low-income families believe connections and social capital are essential for navigating their career journeys but report struggling to build them.

Inspiring the voices of future generations:  Internships operate as engines that promote inclusion rather than inequality in the labor market, compensating interns with both financial and social capital matters.

Who wouldn’t want to help shape a childhood? We expect to hear more often what Xavier stated, “My internship was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and many of the connections I made at the Ithaca Airport are friends of mine today.”

A win for us all. Que the applause and cheers!  Read More, Click Here:   Ithaca Voice  and  Tompkins Weekly

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.

Ties: 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.



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quote Community Foundation Donor Advisor

When you engage with the community, you learn how much more there is to be done.