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.”