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Making a Difference

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Delaware is a prosperous state, redolent of the old money of American industrial royalty, as well as the new money generated by banks, the legal profession, construction and land development.

That prosperity has begotten generosity. Last year 411 Delawareans each donated at least $10,000 to the United Way. That’s more than any other area of the country with a population of 1 million or less. Indeed, a sense of noblesse oblige—a true philanthropic spirit—seems to pervade the First State.

The most important kind of philanthropy is that which effects change for the better, whether it’s feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, providing a college education, assisting the learning disabled, or listening reflectively to the friendless. It usually manifests itself in the form of money, but true philanthropists give countless hours of their time as well. In fact, they seem to be serial volunteers. They see a need. They get involved.

Following are profiles of 20 individuals and couples who have created change up and down the state. We present them neither as the best nor the most generous, though they may very well fit both adjectives, but as examples of what can be done with time, money and creativity to improve the human condition. We’re fully aware that many worthy candidates have been left off this list. In fact, one or two of the 20 profiled here probably would prefer to remain anonymous, but we are outing them just the same.

Tithing? Bangalore T. Lakshman might scoff, were he the scoffing type, at giving just 10 percent of one’s income to charity. A native of India, he came to the United States in 1968, earned a master’s degree from the University of Delaware in 1971, then spent 22 years with Artesian Water, eventually becoming chief engineer. In 1980, when his annual salary was $20,000, he began donating half to charity. Through his BTL Foundation, he has provided more than 35,000 holiday meals, as well as food baskets and clothing, to the needy in Wilmington and cities in surroundings states. He borrowed money from his pension fund to help the Ministry of Caring purchase buildings that serve as transitional shelters. He also funds scholarships at the University of Delaware for needy engineering students. As governor of Rotary International for 1992-93, Lakshman was a catalyst for giving by initiating a fundraising project that helped provide health-related services in five countries.

Over the years, the Gilliam Foundation, administered by James Gilliam Sr. and Linda Gilliam, wife of the late James Gilliam Jr., has helped change the lives of countless Delawareans. As a participant in United Way of Delaware’s community-building and fundraising efforts, Mrs. Gilliam has hosted events to help increase major gifts to the organization. In 1999 the Gilliam family became members of United Way of Delaware’s Tocqueville Society, which recognizes annual campaign contributors of $10,000 and above. The family has helped recruit other community-minded couples and individuals to the society. The Gilliam Foundation recently presented a $100,000 gift to United Way to be distributed to Wilmington’s East Side Charter School through 2012, to be used to further the school’s vision that “every child will learn.” Jim Gilliam Sr. is the founder of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, an advocacy organization designed to build opportunity for African Americans and other people of color.

Though his father and uncle served as philanthropic role models for him in recent years, Charles C. (Chick) Allen III says he learned about giving as a child from his mother and grandmother, through the things they did to help others. He recalls that it was a warm, genuine and private kind of giving. The president of Allen Family Foods in Seaford is an enthusiastic advocate of the Delaware Community Foundation in Southern Delaware. He uses his Charles C. Allen III Charitable Fund to recommend grants to causes and organizations that are important to him, including the University of Delaware, where he served as a trustee from 1988 to 1996. A member of the board of directors at Nanticoke Health Services, Inc., in Seaford, Allen received the Delmarva Distinguished Citizen Award in April and was inducted into the University of Delaware Alumni Wall of Fame in May.

Public service is a way of life for Muriel E. Gilman. After a 23-year career with United Way of Delaware (1966-1988), she now serves on its board of directors. Her professional life also included consulting work in the College of Health and Nursing Services at the University of Delaware (1999-2003). She contributes financially to causes that are important to her and encourages others to do so as well. Gilman has set an example for others by establishing an endowment fund at the Delaware Community Foundation to provide homeowner education and housing counseling to help families achieve and sustain affordable home ownership. The Gilman Family Fund, which will continue to benefit Delawareans long after she is gone, includes her children Peter and Martha as advisors. Gilman currently is one of those serial volunteers, serving with more than a dozen educational, social service, health and governmental agencies.

Carol Shackleton knows a little about pioneering work—she made gaskets for the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the atomic bomb. She wasn’t aware of the project’s purpose at the time, and operating a drill press in a DuPont laboratory was a task that seemed, both then and in retrospect, a terrible waste of a chemistry degree from Vassar. But more important is her pioneering work with CONTACT Delaware, the telephone helpline staffed by volunteers 24-seven since 1974. Shackleton is the only member of the first graduating class of 102 who is still answering CONTACT phones. As of August 1 she had volunteered 5,225 hours—three years of 40-hour work weeks—providing counseling and information to Delawareans in need of a friendly voice and a listening ear.

Two years ago, when Chris Cordrey sat down with some Sussex County community leaders to talk about starting a scholarship fund, he got their full attention. Little wonder. It’s not every day a 16-year-old leads such discussions. “I think my age really helped,” he says. “A lot of them were surprised, but they said it was great to see somebody so young doing this.” Cordrey, now a freshman at the University of Delaware, started the scholarship fund as part of his National Honor Society community service requirement. After rejecting such mundane service as volunteering at the library, he decided on the scholarship for Sussex Central seniors. Chris maintained a 4.0 grade point average at the school, and he’s “big into sports,” having lettered in wrestling, soccer and baseball. Applicants for the scholarship must maintain a 3.2 GPA and letter in a varsity sport. The two-year-old fund has awarded four $1,000 scholarships, to three girls and one boy.

Sherman and Elaine Townsend of Dover are passionate about their commitment to Delaware and to passing their personal tradition of giving on to future generations of the Townsend family. They reach out to the community in many ways. Sherman is devoted to the University of Delaware and the Delaware Community Foundation, and Elaine has served on the board of directors and helped raise funds for Bayhealth Medical Center Foundation. The university is special to both Townsends because that’s where they met. Sherman was recruited to serve both the university and the foundation in the 1980s, and he still is a trustee at UD. After helping the Delaware Community Foundation get under way and chairing the board of directors, he remains one of its most loyal supporters, both as a fundholder and as an advisor who helps others create funds at the foundation.

Helen L. Eliason and her husband, Doug, were children of the Depression who managed to get good educations and have successful careers. Without children of their own to educate, they decided to help those who were struggling to become more productive citizens. Since 1996 the Helen L. & Douglas C. Eliason Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $160,000 in scholarships. Mr. Eliason died in 2002, but Helen has carried on, starting the Children’s Literacy Initiatives Fund in 2003 to award grants to schools and groups that are working to advance children’s literacy. She also has made a gift (independent of the fund) to the Colonial School District for Leapfrog, a summer program that uses computers to “read” books to children. She is a founder of the Delaware Garden Preservation Fund and The Friends of Goodstay Gardens.

Kim and Bill Allen of Hockessin demonstrate to their children the value of giving through their Allen Family Foundation and through their annual family membership donation to Social Venture Partners. As an SVP board member, Bill gets to review grant applications and actually see the family’s contributions at work. Dr. Kim Allen, an educational consultant who conducts training at a charter school that SVP supports, says the family’s emphasis is on education and youth. Among the Allens’ favorite charities: Junior Achievement, the Boys and Girls Club and the Keisha Michael Memorial Scholarship Fund (for Delaware seniors who will attend North Carolina Central University). They are also members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“You can be a philanthropist with very little money,” says J. Kent Riegel. “Philanthropy comes in many shapes, forms and sizes.” Riegel, who retired as president and general counsel of ICI Americas in 1999, has dedicated both time and money to charities. The Centreville resident is currently working on a study, which he hopes to present to the state legislature next year, that will create a realistic inflation index to help increase funding for Delaware nonprofits. He was honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2003 largely for his work in funding and getting legislation passed to create Delaware CarePlan, a nonprofit that enhances the lives of individuals with disabilities and helps their families establish long-term care plans. He’s also involved with Easter Seals and the Opportunities Center, networking through former business acquaintances to bring business to the center.

Michele Rollins and her late husband, John W. Rollins, have been synonymous with generous giving for several decades. Mrs. Rollins has served as trustee of Goldey-Beacom College and chair of its development committee. Her leadership was critical in exceeding the $4.5 million capital campaign. The Rollinses were instrumental in establishing the school’s athletic fund and quietly funding the education of many students. They were major donors to the Capital and Endowment Campaign at St. Edmond’s Academy, where they also established and funded an alternative music program and anonymously funded tuition for needy students. Mrs. Rollins has also served as honorary chair of the Catholic Charities Dinner and several of the Ministry of Caring’s Eleganza Fashion Shows. She has been a major supporter of the Beebe Medical Center, serving on the board and as chair of the Medical Foundation.

A rifle platoon leader in World War II, Charles E. “Chuck” Welch is a tough man with a soft heart. Welch and his late wife, Charma, the parents of a special needs child, were the driving forces behind the Mary Campbell Center, a facility established in 1976 for people with disabilities. The former DuPont vice president and general counsel is a past president of the Delaware Foundation for Retarded Children and of United Cerebral Palsy. A lifetime of public service has earned him many awards, including the Marvel Cup from the State Chamber of Commerce, the J. Thompson Brown Award from Family Service, and the Good Government Award from the Civic League for New Castle County. He also served as president of the State Board of Education, chairman of the Vocational Education Task Force and volunteer director of the Wilmington Medical Center.

David and Pat Horsey have overcome their share of adversity. David, a former long-distance truck driver, once had to trade cigarettes to pay the Delaware Memorial Bridge toll. In 1985 the Horseys’ son Tim was killed in a motorcycle accident. They used the $36,000 insurance money to start a successful contracting business in Laurel, David G. Horsey & Sons, and they’ve been giving back to the community ever since. They sponsor a dozen or more youth sports teams and raise money through golf and fishing tournaments and motorcycle raffles. They created two memorial funds at Laurel High School and, in 2003, their fund-raiser brought in $300,000 to benefit the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Emergency Room expansion. In 2004 they established the Horsey Family Youth Foundation Fund through the Delaware Community Foundation to make various programs available to the youth of Southern Delaware. The Horseys hope to grow the fund to $1 million.

E. Thomas “Thom” Harvey III inherited both a thriving business—Harvey & Harvey, Inc.—and a charitable nature from his parents. “I remember my dad driving a bus to an orphanage in Ogletown to take the kids on bowling or skating trips,” he says. “And my mother gathered clothes for underprivileged kids at my Richardson Park elementary school.” So Harvey and his wife, Debra, parents of a learning disabled child who is now a freshman at the University of Delaware, are dedicated to educational causes. Harvey owns and operates several management and real estate investment companies, and his funding and management skills have helped grow Centreville School for the learning disabled. Debra founded the Layton Preparatory School in New Castle for learning-disabled students. For years, Harvey has sponsored and managed two Delaware teams in Philadelphia’s Sonny Hill Basketball League, resulting in more than 50 college scholarships for some of Wilmington’s most underprivileged student athletes.

“A community isn’t really a community without the arts,” says Wayne Holden. That’s why he and his wife, Betsy, have made it a point to support art, theater and music endeavors in central Delaware. The Biggs Museum and the Schwartz Center for the Arts, where he served as vice chairman of the board, have benefited from the Holdens’ efforts. Through the Greater Dover Foundation, they were instrumental in helping to pay off the debt of the Dover Art League. A vice president at Merrill Lynch in Dover, Holden has been deeply involved in nonprofit activities since 1979, when he was asked to serve on the board of Kent General Hospital. “In lower Delaware, we don’t have the resources that are present in Northern Delaware,” he says, “so we need to do our best to initiate change and support organizations that will benefit future generations in our area.”

Thanks to his family name and the generosity of his donations, Irenee duPont Jr., 85, is among Delaware’s most well-known philanthropists. His Crystal Trust has given more than $4 million to various charities, including homeless shelters, food banks, hospitals, libraries, museums and family-service organizations. The 85-year-old scion of the du Pont family has been a lifetime advocate of scouting in Delaware. The du Pont family purchased the land to establish Rodney Scout Reservation on the Eastern Shore nearly 85 years ago, and Irenee annually welcomes hundreds of Boy Scouts to camp on the property surrounding Granogue, his 17-bedroom stone mansion in rural Centreville. (He once listed “Scouting on Two Continents” as the book he keeps on his nightstand.) He also is a major supporter of Wilmington College, chairing the board of trustees, as well as WHYY-TV, the Delaware Art Museum and the Brandywine Valley Association, a nature conservancy.

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