(This story appeared Dec. 8 in The Gloucester Times.) Long time Gloucester resident Dick Wilson has always been one to give to his community. Whether helping establish low income housing at the CapeAnn YMCA, organizing a new stadium for the high school, or throwing parties simply to bring people together, Wilson models giving quietly and consistently.
At least that’s what his long time friend and colleague in financial services David McKechnie says. McKechnie is a founding principal with Derek Reed of Beauport Financial Services (BFS) in Gloucester, which Wilson also helped support. Ten years ago, McKechnie and Reed surprised Wilson at Beauport’s annual Christmas party by creating a community grant named after him. The Richard D. Wilson Community Response Fund was established, mirroring the global gift fund from their affiliate ValMark Securities before bringing the Fund to Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF). Since then, the grant process has grown and BFS is currently committed to giving away 10 percent of their profit to local nonprofits each Christmas.
This year, 21 local and regional nonprofit organizations will receive grants at the company’s holiday party December 11 as 175 clients, friends, employees and nonprofit leaders gather at the Bass Rocks Golf Club.
“It’s a party to give back,” McKechnie said. “I think it makes a holiday party more meaningful. Some clients even travel from the western part of the state just to honor Dick and our nonprofit leaders.”
The Wilson Fund reflects a growing number of Essex County businesses committed to charitable giving through their community foundation. It’s a sign of businesses wanting “to give where they live,” said Jay Caporale, ECCF’s executive vice president and director of philanthropy. JEOL USA, for instance, a Peabody-based supplier of electron equipment, recently established a corporate fund through ECCF to provide scholarships for dependents of JEOL USA employees. And McKechnie says he’s talked with several business owners who are making philanthropic funds a priority.
“It’s good for business and builds loyalty of customers because it shows you’re serious about giving back to the community,” McKechnie said. “We’re all rowing the boat together. It gives more meaning to go to work everyday knowing that we can give to others and have an impact.”
From the fund’s start, Beauport Financial Services wanted its employees and even their children to be in the decision making process. They asked their clients to make recommendations of nonprofits and soon began learning about the range of organizations across the region addressing issues such as hunger, human trafficking, environmental care, and youth development. The staff and their families set their priorities and as grant applications came in, the group selected together those efforts it wanted to support.
“The Richard D. Wilson Fund reaches deep into the heart of the community and funds programs that meet practical needs,” said Julie LaFontaine, executive director of The Open Door, a Gloucester-based nonprofit that provides food, hospitality and advocacy services and a 2013 recipient. “This funding has helped The Open Door connect people to good food when they are struggling to keep food on the table.”
Because LaFontaine knows and admires Wilson, she said her organization was thrilled to receive a grant through a fund named in his honor. “The Richard Wilson Fund is a perfect reflection of Dick's commitment to community,” she said.
And partnering with Essex County Community Foundation means businesses can prioritize their commitments in specific funds.
“The structure of ECCF helps us with being more effective in our grant making and giving,” said McKechnie. “Our hope is that other businesses would do the same with their charitable giving, especially during the holidays.”