Bill and Mary Wasserman feel passionately that strong arts and culture are critical to enhancing and sustaining a vibrant lifestyle and economic opportunity in Essex County, today and for the future. To underscore that, they believe in and support the mission of Montserrat College of Art.
Building on this region’s incredible arts backbone and history, for nearly 50 years, Montserrat, located in downtown Beverly, has offered an exceptional arts education.
“It is wonderful to see the transformation, the graceful maturing that takes place as these kids travel their four years of college,” said Bill, now a devoted trustee of the College.
When he retired as owner and publisher of a chain of weekly newspapers, Bill chose to pursue his own passion for art at Montserrat. During his years of study at the College, he learned first-hand the benefits of Montserrat to the community and region, but most importantly, to the students.
“Montserrat provides students, many of whom have limited means, a nurturing and quality path to a creative and productive life,” said Bill. “These young people can become contributing members in our economy with careers they are passionate about.”
In keeping with these priorities of insuring education and opportunity for all, Montserrat enjoys a diverse student population – in their personal creative vision and also in demographics and economic background. Many students are from middle-to-low income families, and the opportunity to build a career out of their passion for art isn’t always readily available. Many of these students are able to attend Montserrat because of the significant amount of financial assistance that the college offers, due in part to generous supporters like Bill and Mary.
The Wassermans have partnered with ECCF to simplify their charitable giving to Montserrat and other causes they care about. Bill explains that making one major charitable contribution each year to the Foundation eliminates the need for multiple stock transactions, mounds of tax records and cumbersome bookkeeping.
“Once the proceeds are at ECCF, I can parcel them out in big or little pieces,” said Bill. “The timing of the gifts is up to me, or at the convenience of the benefactor if I wish to accommodate them, but it is not dependent upon fickle financial winds.”
And, he added, there is an added plus for the Foundation.
“ECCF earns some money off of the account management, and that money is reinvested into the community,” said Bill. “My use of ECCF makes a small contribution to a good cause, namely a better life in Essex County.”
PHOTO: Bill Wasserman, third from left, and his wife, Mary, far right, attend a Montserrat art sale opening.
It takes a village, people say, to raise a child. This year, a new ECCF fund is proving the village can also save lives.
The Pelican Intervention Fund, founded in 2015 by Newburyport residents Kim and Steven Keene and Elizabeth McCarthy, is a grassroots organization created to help men and women struggling with addiction – most notably heroin addiction. An epidemic nearly everywhere, Essex County has been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis. According to ECCF’s Impact Essex County data, admissions to drug treatment programs for heroin addiction in Essex County have surged 60 percent since 2005.
“Every community is struggling with this,” said Kim Keene. “The funding for the critical programs needed to create a lasting solution to this epidemic is just not there.”
The Fund supports the journey from addiction to recovery through extended residency in structured 12 Step-based sober living homes. “These programs heal individuals at the roots and provide hope for sustained sobriety," said McCarthy.
Through the generosity of community members and community-based fundraising events, the Fund has raised over $45,000 since its inception and has helped five young men successfully through treatment.
“We have seen both the depths of despair addiction causes individuals and family, and the recovery possible over time with care and support,” said McCarthy.
The group credits Essex County Community Foundation’s guidance and donor services with the Fund’s early success. Steven Keene called ECCF a “safe harbor” for the Pelican Intervention Fund, which experienced an uncertain start under another organization.
“We really appreciate working with ECCF because we had no idea what to do,” he said. “Once we got to ECCF, all that worry went away.”
“If we have a question, someone gets back to us right away,” added Steve. “The Community Foundation has given us the freedom to really work towards fulfilling our mission.”
Linda and Jurg Siegenthaler have had a longtime passion for the city of Lawrence.
“When I left the city, it was struggling,” said Linda, who grew up in the Tower Hill neighborhood. “Now there’s a lot of effort to bring it back and I want to be a part of that.”
Through their ECCF Donor Advised Fund, the Siegenthalers have played a significant role in the efforts to focus attention on the arts, history and culture in Lawrence.
“We chose arts and humanities because they are not that largely supported in the area,” said Linda, whose parents were very active in Lawrence. The Siegenthalers give not only financial support to the causes they care about, but they donate their time as well. “We are very hands on,” said Linda.
The Siegenthaler’s have funded, among other things, music, art shows and historic symposiums at the Lawrence History Center. They have supported projects at the Essex Art Center, the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival and Groundwork Lawrence. They have funded summer opportunities for kids with the Greater Lawrence Summer Fund and English classes for native Haitian Creole speakers through Friends of the Lawrence Public Library.
“ECCF has been a great vehicle for targeting our passion,” said Linda.
Jurg, who also serves as the treasurer of Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park, said that the one-on-one meetings with ECCF staff members has been one of the most valuable services ECCF offers its fundholders, along with help in planning for their charitable future. Linda and Jurg are working with ECCF to include the Foundation in their estate plan.
“We’re looking to the future as we get older and we know we want to have vibrant, intelligent communities,” said Linda.
When she was a girl, Elizabeth Shorts Harrigan would visit her father’s childhood home and property in Bellevue, WA, a lush seven acres filled with the rhododendrons her grandfather planted and tended for years.
“We would go out there and visit the property and my dad would tell me about where his bedroom used to be, where their animals used to be and it was so tangible, to see and understand at such an early age,” said Harrigan.
In 1984, her father’s family donated the house and property to the City of Bellevue to become part of a 53-acre botanical garden, open free for the public to enjoy.
“I always thought that my dad and his family gave away everything they ever had and that stuck with me,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan’s passion for philanthropy only grew from there, as she witnessed her parents – Binkley and Paula Shorts – become deeply involved with ECCF in its early stages and serve on over a dozen other nonprofit boards in Essex County.
Now Harrigan, along with her brother and sister, is carrying on her family’s legacy of philanthropy with a donor advised fund at ECCF.
Each year, Harrigan and her siblings come up with a philanthropic theme for their end-of-year giving. During a brutally cold winter, they might invest in nonprofits that supply blankets, clothing and warm food to those in need. Other years, they will invest in a global organization such as the Haiti Fund or Doctors Without Borders. During a time of rapid development, they’ll invest in local land conservation and smart growth initiatives.
“I use the term ‘invest’ because that’s really what we are doing with our donor advised fund at ECCF,” said Harrigan. “We invest in nonprofits and feel like we share in the ownership of their successes.”
Harrigan and her siblings have come to rely on ECCF for local expertise, philanthropic advice and the freedom to give without the burdens of the paperwork and processing that can often take away from the giving experience.
“ECCF makes donating so easy, and so much more manageable, especially in today’s busy world,” said Harrigan, who also serves on ECCF’s NextGen steering committee. “They do it all, and all we have to do is make a decision and use the online donation tool. It’s remarkable. I absolutely give more because of ECCF. And that’s powerful.”
The power of giving is something Harrigan hopes to pass on to her own children too.
“Seeing the bigger picture as a community member is vital to the future not only of Essex County, but to the world,” said Harrigan. “Picking your head up, looking out at the needs and helping in any capacity makes a difference. It expands your happiness. It opens your eyes to reality and the challenges of life. It’s what I want my girls to experience now, even at 4 and 6 years old. We are all in this together. That’s how I want them to feel.”
Nicole Lemieux Knight was a remarkable person. President of the 1986 senior class at Newburyport High School and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Nicole enjoyed successful careers in both New York and Paris and was a friend to many on both continents. “Nicole had an incredible way with people. I think more than anything, it was her openness…to people, and to all that life offered,” said her brother Peter Lemieux. “Some people’s beauty — and Nicole was really quite beautiful — intimidates others, scares them away, makes them feel insecure. But not Nicole’s. She had a real gift, a sweet, disarming way about her and, because of that, she really had an impact on people’s lives.” Nicole succumbed to breast cancer in October 2005, three weeks after giving birth to her first child, Sofia.
Her family and friends, anxious to create a lasting tribute to her life, chose to establish a scholarship in her memory and turned to ECCF for help. The Nicole Lemieux Knight Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to a Newburyport graduating senior who, like Nicole, demonstrates a free spirit and creative vision for his or her life pursuits. “When we started the scholarship, we weren’t sure how to proceed from a legal, tax or accounting perspective,” explained Barry Lemieux, Nicole’s father. “Early on, we were really caught in a no-man’s land at a critical juncture. Fortunately, a friend turned us on to ECCF, which turned out to be the perfect solution for our needs. Right away, every contribution became tax-deductible. All the paperwork and all of the headaches went away. It was a great decision going with ECCF. And thanks to their fine work, there’s no question about the scholarship’s long-term sustainability.” Nicole’s friends and family also decided to continue to raise funds for this ongoing tribute to Nicole’s life. Each summer, as a group, they participate in the Yankee Homecoming road race in Newburyport. The race adds to the scholarship endowment, ensuring that it will become a permanent tribute to Nicole’s life and keep family and friends connected to Nicole’s memory and to the community in which she was raised. Said her childhood friend, Nonie Olsen, “It’s fitting…even now after this tragedy, she’s able to still bring people together. We’re all proud of this scholarship and what it stands for, and I know she would be too.”
Judi Lyons brought back more than a suntan from her 2009 trip to the Virgin Islands. She had an idea for a fun way to support nonprofit organizations in her community. Started by a friend living on St. Thomas, the Charity Girls of the Virgin Islands is a group of 24 women who meet monthly for dinner and discussion about the needs of their community. Monthly, they each pay $50 to dine at a member’s home. The dinners are donated by the hostess and the money is pooled for grantmaking. At the end of each year, the Charity Girls grant $14,000 to causes of their choice in the Virgin Islands.
Judi loved the idea and gathered friends from Newbury, Boxford and North Andover whom she thought may be interested in starting a similar fund. Most were looking for a way to become involved and invested in their community beyond the schools and thought the Charity Girls was a terrific model. Judi proposed that the women divide into groups of two. Each pair would host one dinner per year at one person’s home. If the hosts wanted, they could invite a favorite local charity to attend and present to the group. She also invited Essex County Community Foundation to the initial planning meeting to describe how ECCF would manage the fund.
Modeled after a traditional giving circle, the Charity Girls Fund allows members to raise money each year, decide on the use of those funds and make grants to charities of their choice. The Charity Girls of Northeast Massachusetts Fund was established at ECCF in October 2009 and the first dinner held in November. For $50 a month, each member will enjoy a tax deductible dinner with friends and be able to be philanthropists in their community.
Judi reports, “We have had such fun at our dinners getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones. ECCF made this easy to start and manage ... all we have to do is cook for our friends. And our evenings will result in support for programs in our community.”
On September 18, 2009, Mayor Michael Sullivan partnered with the Charles C. Pringle Foundation to establish a fund at ECCF to provide a mechanism that could respond rapidly to urgent needs during times of emergency.
Lawrence, Massachusetts has a long and proud history as a city of immigrants. It has also had a history of disasters beginning with a fire that destroyed the Pemberton Mill in 1860. More recently, in June 2006, Lawrence experienced a devastating flood that hit Eastern Massachusetts and particularly affected the Merrimack Valley. Then in January 2007, a raging fire left 20 families homeless. Each time the city pulled together to help victims but with disaster often comes disunity over determining the most efficient, effective and coordinated way to collect and distribute funds to those most in need.
The Lawrence Emergency Fund will provide a single source for accepting donations and dispersing aid to those agencies that can best help affected residents rebuild their lives. ECCF is proud to be able to provide this valuable service to the city of Lawrence.
The Reid Sacco Memorial Cancer Research Fund was established in honor of Reid Sacco, a courageous young man who was diagnosed with Sarcoma just weeks before his high school graduation in 2003. Driven by his dreams for his future and despite eventually losing a lung, a kidney and his right leg to the cancer, Reid fought bravely against the disease that eventually claimed his life in April of 2005. During those two years, Reid and his family learned the tragic reality facing adolescent and young adult cancer patients: there are very few treatment options for them, and there had been no improvement in survival in this age group in more than 25 years.
Shattered by the loss of their beloved son and brother, Reid’s family set out to change the outlook for young people stricken with cancer, and began planning events to both raise funds for medical research and raise awareness about the disparity in cancer progress, treatment options, and clinical research for this age group. Reid’s family partnered with ECCF in setting up a donor-advised fund with the core purpose of supporting scientific and clinical research aimed at finding better treatments – and someday a cure – for the cancers striking adolescents and young adults.
The primary annual fundraiser for the Reid Sacco Memorial Cancer Research Fund is Reid’s Ride, a 28-mile bike-a-thon from Lynnfield to Gloucester held every July.
"An old proverb proclaims that 'it takes a village to raise a child'", explains Lorraine Sacco. "That proverb is an appropriate metaphor for what it takes to accomplish important things that benefit us all, particularly those things that touch our young people. Hard work is certainly part of the equation, but hard work is more effective and rewarding when it is shared and embraced by the community. Such is the relationship between ECCF and the Reid Sacco Memorial Cancer Research Fund & Reid Sacco Memorial Scholarship Fund. We work together as a team, and as a community voice, to benefit the lives of our adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer. For organizations like ours, the relationship provides relief from much of the administrative burden associated with non-profit organizations, allowing us to focus our skills and energy on fund-raising and events like Reid's Ride. The bottom line is that our relationship with ECCF has helped make Reid's Ride the success it is today."
In 1868, Civil War veteran H.K. Webster founded a small feed grain operation in Lawrence. In the 1980s, under the leadership of H.K.’s great-grandsons Dean and King Webster, the company reached its zenith as a manufacturer and distributor of Blue Seal Feeds in the Northeast.
Nurturing a family company is an especially absorbing occupation. When the cousins decided to sell the business built by generations of ancestors, they gained prosperity and freedom but lost a large part of their identity. As he walked out of the office on that last day, King realized he would have to find a new focus for his productive life.
Within months the choice was clear, and he and his wife Dee embarked on a life of philanthropy, focusing on the education of youth. They devoted the next 11 years of their lives to supporting the education of 62 sixth-graders in Lawrence. Dee and King nurtured, coached, pushed and encouraged them all. They met with teachers and parents. They had the students to their home for meals and took them on field trips. They heard about victories, loves, troubles and hopes. The Websters’ energy, care and generosity helped an at-risk group of students, almost all of whom finished high school. Fifteen have received four-year college degrees. Some have families, careers and a life beyond their expectations. They send holiday cards. They visit Dee and King and share their lives.
The Websters know what hard work good philanthropy is and they are very strategic about it. They are not interested in reactive giving or in basing charity on symptoms, focusing instead on “teaching people to fish” with proactive programs, mostly focused on education. Given those values, it’s no surprise that Dee and King were among ECCF’s earliest supporters and over the years have become among the most generous. Their Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation supports education programs that serve children from the Lawrence community. The Websters’ gifts help fund many programs that are making a great difference in Lawrence. They always inspire and encourage others to join them, because smart philanthropy is even more effective when shared.
“One of the many things I admire about King Webster is he approaches his philanthropy like the trained engineer that he is. He checks things out for himself. He ‘kicks the tires’ of his many causes through regular site visits and in-depth conversations with those involved, whether it is the executive director, a teacher, a student or the bus driver." said Steve Filosa, director of Prep @ Pingree, a summer program that King supported through the Greater Lawrence Summer Fund. "King asks hard questions that probe far beneath the surface. The questions result in improving the organization. I am inspired by King because he chooses to spend his ‘retirement’ doing good works."
Essex County and its Community Foundation have been fortunate indeed to have had Kingman and Dee Webster showing how philanthropy can have a personal and powerful impact on not just the people they support, but also on the people they inspired.
What does it mean when a doctor suggests you get your affairs in order? For my late wife, my children and me it meant trying to find a positive amid the horror of losing a wife and mother— some small way to hold on to her.
We had been blessed by remarkable care for her entire six-and-a half year battle with breast cancer— much of which had taken place at the North Shore Cancer Center in Peabody. What my late wife wanted was for me to come up with some mechanism for her to thank the special people of the Center in a meaningful way. What we eventually ended up with achieved a whole lot more. My first idea was some sort of family foundation. I called an estate attorney friend who quickly informed me that for a foundation to make sense on a tax and administrative basis, we would need a minimum of $250,000 in assets. That seemed a little ambitious. He then suggested that I find an existing foundation that accepted donor advised funds. That way we could have the funds do what we wanted them to without any of the headaches of accounting, administration or investment. We chose ECCF because it was focused locally and because of the ease in which the memorial fund could be set up. No attorneys were necessary and there was very little paperwork. ECCF did everything.
Over and above the direct thank you that the fund was intended to be, we have also accrued several other important benefits. First, the fund will give permanence to our wife/mother's memory. Second, it is a vehicle for people outside our family to also have an equity stake in her memory. It provides a productive way to say, "I miss her too" or "She was important to me also". Many people have written to thank me for allowing them to be a part of this. Third, my children will be advisors to the fund for as long as they choose. This will provide them with a hands on introduction to philanthropy. Fourth, and most importantly, the fund will attempt to directly ease the burden of those suffering from cancer here in Essex County.
I can't think of anything that we did that was more important than finding ECCF and creating this memorial fund when it came time to 'put your affairs in order'.
By Scott Price
Michael Latta loved being an EMT. After graduating from North Andover High School in 2004, he found his passion when he enrolled at Northern Essex Community College and completed his EMT certificate. “Michael would sign up for 24 hour shifts on Saturday nights because there were more emergency calls” recalls his sister Nikki. “We all need people like Michael in our communities.”
He dreamed of continuing his education to become a Paramedic but on April 26, 2007, Michael died of an apparent heart attack while on duty with the Patriot Ambulance Company. In the days and weeks that followed his death, grieving family and friends raised money to start a scholarship to honor Michael and his achievements and dreams. The scholarship would be used to help other EMTs to become Paramedics. Although the plans were made, the scholarship needed a home. The Latta family turned to the Essex County Community Foundation and set up a scholarship fund giving the family a way to continue to support the aspirations of their son by encouraging other young, passionate and dedicated students in the field of emergency medicine to become paramedics.
Nikki Latta comments “ECCF is helping my family create a permanent memorial in Michael’s honor. They are providing the expertise and support so that we can help other EMTs realize Michael’s dream of becoming a Paramedic.”