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VOL. 126 | NO. 141 | Thursday, July 21, 2011

Philanthropist to Match GiVE 365 Memberships


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In only its second year of existence, the GiVE 365 initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has received a challenge gift from Sylvia Goldsmith Marks.

Sylvia Goldsmith Marks, pictured with cousin Bert Barnett, will match all new GiVE 365 memberships up to $20,000.
(Photo: Murray Riss)

She is the granddaughter of Jacob Goldsmith, who founded and operated the department stores that once bore his name and have since become part of the Macy’s empire. Marks will match all new GiVE 365 memberships, through Aug. 31, up to $20,000.

“She inherited the family tradition of the importance of giving back,” said Bert Barnett, a cousin and spokesperson for the 93-year-old Marks.

GiVE 365 is hosting a cocktail hour and membership drive Thursday, July 21, at 5:30 p.m. to announce the gift at East Tapas and Drinks, 6069 Park Ave. Current members will also be on hand to answer questions. East Tapas is donating appetizers and offering drink specials.

“To have it come from somebody who is well-known to us and well-known to an awful lot of the community, and from one of the most generous families in the area,” said Bob Fockler, president of the Community Foundation, “to have her say, ‘I think this is important, developing the next generation of philanthropists regardless of how old they happen to be,’ is important.”

As part of the GiVE 365 program, each member household donates $365 with half of the amount going toward current year grants and the other half invested to fund an endowment for future years’ grants.

Last year, the program’s first, $34,650 in grants were made to eight organizations including Indie Memphis for its Freedom Series films, Levitt Shell at Overton Park for its continuing free concerts, Hattiloo Theatre for Hattiloo in the Park performances and Su Casa Family Ministries to support their work with Hispanic families.

“Give 365 is already an important program, but it doesn’t have the reach yet that it probably needs to have, so we need to try to get it out in front of as many people as possible and sometimes people respond well to incentives,” Fockler said.

Marks’ gift represents a major stride in the organization’s goal for the current year as it works to increase the total grant amount to $40,000.

Each year, a grant-making theme is chosen, with this year’s being “Fishing Lessons,” based on the idea that if you teach a man to fish, you feed him forever.

The current application asked the question: How will your organization provide opportunities for people to learn the skills they need to sustain themselves and support their families?

Sixty-five percent of the members voted on the theme with the winning theme taking nearly 40 percent of the votes. Fifty-five applications were received by the deadline last Monday.

“Members are involved in voting on the theme, members can be involved, if they want to, in reviewing every single grant proposal, and then every member is involved in choosing who the actual grantees are,” Fockler said, “so it’s pretty hands-on.”

One of the goals of GiVE 365 is to introduce the younger members of the community to the idea and process of philanthropy. Marks began her habit of giving back when she was 16 and her volunteer work in Memphis at what was then the Crippled Children’s Hospital and School. It is a practice that has never waned.

“She’s devoted to the concept of the Community Foundation and what they’re doing,” Barnett said. “She has always supported the idea of bringing more people into community giving.”

Fockler welcomes the help and the incentive of someone so highly regarded in realizing tomorrow’s philanthropists.

“She’s so involved in the organizations that she supports that she’s concerned about what happens when she’s not around to make the donations that she gives, which is a question about … finding out who’s going to come behind her and write those checks,” Fockler said. “It’s really a beautiful thing and they approached us, which was really sweet.”

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