A legacy of giving

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The power of giving is no more evident than at this time of year.

Stories of companies adopting families; giving trees at banks, restaurants and the senior center; churches and service clubs delivering food baskets; and toy drives, like the Marine Reserves’ Toys for Tots, abound. The end of the calendar year also heralds the time when non-profits appeal for donations, accompanied by the gentle reminder that a donation is deductible to the extent of the tax laws.

Giving to specific causes is what some foundations do.

Late last month, the Champlin Foundations distributed checks for $16.1 million to 173 non-profit organizations, representing one of the larger community gifts of its kind. The local Champlin Foundations has given away $551 million since the first of three foundations was created in 1932. This year’s grants, like those of past years, varied in amounts from a couple of thousand dollars to the hundreds of thousands. The money supports a cross-section of projects and programs from uniforms for the Pawtuxet Rangers to restoration efforts being spearheaded by another foundation – the Rhode Island Foundation – at Roger Williams Park.

The Champlin Foundations are known for their support of capital projects for educational, conservation, youth and health programs. Over the years, libraries have turned to Champlin for computers, building additions and innovative programs. Grants have helped fund equipment at the Community College of Rhode Island, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Kent Hospital. Champlin grants have also helped preserve farm and woodlands that might have otherwise been lost to development.

A long tradition of giving doesn’t happen without money, of course, but more importantly, it doesn’t happen without the vision to create a sustainable mechanism of giving. The family of Stanton Browning Champlin, who founded the S.B. Champlin Company, a jewelry and manufacturing company, in 1875 created the Champlin Foundations. The endowment has grown through prudent investment management to a point where it generates enough income to give between $16 million and $18 million annually. The Rhode Island Foundation has done the same, although its endowment is made up of a collection of funds set up by a cross-section of donors, rather than one family. Together the Champlin and Rhode Island Foundations have assets exceeding $1 billion.

This remarkable legacy of giving reflects the caring nature of Rhode Islanders. That dollar dropped into the kettle of a Salvation Army bell ringer, the check written in response to the annual school appeal or the tickets purchased to help pay for the medication of a neighbor fighting cancer are all actions that define us as a community. It is to be celebrated.

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