Creating a Legacy and Tradition of Family Giving

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By Season of Giving

Throughout his dynamic career in non-profit leadership, Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation President & CEO Tony Martinez has repeatedly witnessed the powerful and positive impact that family giving traditions can have on individual lives and within local communities.

"Philanthropic traditions begin for many reasons and assume many forms. All it takes is one individual to get the conversation started among family members," says Martinez, noting that part of OPRFCF's work during the past 60 years has been to help a number of families design and establish legacies of giving.

Those legacies continue to grow in impressive ways. Today more than 100 families, couples and individuals work with the Foundation to sustain their family funding efforts in the fields of education, the arts, health and employment, among others. In 2019 alone, family giving towards education, scholarships, environment, mental wellness, job training programs, and arts initiatives amounted to more than $2 million.

Legacy giving often involves multiple family members, such as siblings and cousins, or several generations, from grandparents down to grandchildren.

For the past 15 years, as both a granddaughter and as a mother, Marian Garrigan has upheld a tradition of family giving. In 2004 at the request of her cousin, Dr. Stephen Gawne, Garrigan began helping to advise the Catherine Devereux Brandstrader Scholarship Fund, named in honor of their grandmother. The fund grants scholarships to female high school seniors from large families that may struggle with simultaneously paying college costs for multiple children.

"My grandmother came from a family of eight children. The boys got to go to college but the girls didn't have the opportunity," Garrigan says. "There are still some big families out there and they could use the assistance."

In 2007, Garrigan's 24-year-old daughter Kathleen died in a canoe accident while serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Alaska. Marian and her husband decided to honor her memory – "Kathy was a leader," says Marian – by creating the Kathleen Marian Garrigan Leadership Fund. The fund provides financial support to 18- to 25-year-olds who have completed a domestic community service project over an extended period of time, and who are transitioning to school or work on limited budgets.

Marian, who has been joined now by a sister and another daughter in advising the fund named for Kathleen, says she chose to work with the Foundation because of her previous positive experience with them.

"The Foundation helps get the word out about the fund. Everyone is always welcoming and open, and they are good communicators," she says, noting that she values the staff's assistance with screening applications and their skill at professionally managing and administering the fund.

Rhea Yap, OPRFCF's senior philanthropic advisor, says the Foundation appreciates the opportunity to help families who are interested in creating a legacy take their first steps, adding that its advisors "remain committed to each family throughout the length of their giving tradition."

As he leads the organization into the next decade, Martinez says he believes family giving benefits everyone involved, and hopes the number of those who participate in family giving continues to grow.

"Family giving supports organizations and individuals who are facing obstacles as they work to overcome them. These are investments that 'pay forward' into the overall, long-term health of our communities," he says. "I've also seen how family giving builds bridges across generations, and I believe that's another way our communities gain strength. We see the positive effects all around us today, and it's inspiring to know that so many people continue to care about our shared tomorrow."

To learn how to establish a tradition of Family Giving with the Oak Park-River Forest Foundation, contact Rhea Yap at or 708-848-1560. We look forward to working with you.

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