Leading ACTors: Founder Reflections
By Tricia Ritchie, Development Officer, ACT for Alexandria
ACT was founded on the idea that when people come together, we can achieve big things for our community. This month, as we reflected on the anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, we have also taken time to remember how this event was catalytic and sparked philanthropic generosity, including the founding of ACT. One of the several catalysts was the availability of an initial sum of money that the family of Norma L. Steuerle, a generous, long-time Alexandria resident, transferred to ACT after Mrs. Steuerle’s death on September 11, 2001. This generous donation came at a pivotal time as there was also a group of engaged Alexandrians seeking a vehicle to make a deep, long-lasting impact in their community. We spoke to a few of ACT’s founding members to hear what compelled their involvement, and why they feel ACT is a vital resource for Alexandria.
Gene Steuerle remembers, “A story I think best reflects the great capacity of Alexandrians to work together comes from the early days of the founding of ACT. One group of us was meeting in John Porter’s principal’s office at Alexandria’s public high school and considering ways to use some money that had become available to my children and me, perhaps as a catalyst and early support for a community foundation. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the first group, several other people had been thinking about and discussing ways to engage in and support a broader community-wide effort as well. As we found each other, we then were able to garner the support of the Mayor and City Manager’s office, and our first chair was Don Beyer, Jr., a former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and now Congressional representative for the city. Much of the effort of the community foundation would be devoted to strengthening the charities within the city to serve Alexandrians, working with the city government when it proved useful to it, and holding convenings and addressing city-wide needs and opportunities. This engaged many other people in ACT’s efforts and ACT into theirs. It was this large grouping, shared vision, and creative talents of many Alexandrians that led to the founding of ACT.”
Lori Morris shared, “A key vision for ACT was to create a way for community members, non-profits, and local government to work together to create the best services and best systems for the community. As a community foundation, ACT is able to leverage public and private resources in a way that catalyzes and encourages investment in initiatives that have a large, positive impact in our community. I am honored that I was able to be part of making this happen with the formation of the Center for Alexandria’s Children and the city-wide early childhood collaborative Kids’ First Years.”
“One of the best things that came out of the founding of ACT,” explained Allison Cryor DiNardo, “was bringing together Alexandrians who didn’t know each other but who were inspired by the idea of a community foundation. We made new friends and worked hard to make it succeed. Now it’s an institution here in Alexandria.”
We are thankful that many of ACT’s founding members continue to be actively involved as fund holders. One such member, David Speck, noted that the founding of ACT provided a wide range of advisory, investment, and fund management services that allow donors to focus on the causes and nonprofits close to their hearts. A retired investment manager, Mr. Speck spoke about how donor advised funds simplify giving for donors. “ACT is doing good in the community. Housing your fund at the local community foundation means your investment is channeling back into great things like providing support and resources for Alexandria’s nonprofit sector. One example would be Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s Giving Day, which in 2021 alone resulted in $2.6M in donations to 160 organizations.”
ACT’s mission is “Turning ideas into action and resources into results.” We are thankful that our founders envisioned ACT, took action by contributing resources of talent and financial support, so that the result is a community foundation that works to create a more vibrant Alexandria for all.