Foundation offers route to ‘new philanthropy’ | SierraSun.com
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Foundation offers route to ‘new philanthropy’

MARIANNE PORTER, Special to the Sun

Nowadays, you don’t have to be John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie to join the class of people called philanthropists.

Daily and weekly, individuals and businesses are giving back to their communities with ease by investigating and becoming involved in local organizations such as the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation. The word philanthropy may sound intimidating because of the classic image we have of wealthy business people the likes of Rockefeller and Carnegie.

They amassed huge fortunes, enjoyed life to its fullest and, in the end, gave enormous sums of money away to their favorite organizations.

Today, the model of “the new philanthropy” opens the door for younger people to step up and make a difference in their world by investing in the community around them. By donating manageable sums of money throughout various stages of life, donors can be part of a whole new movement to improve their world as they go and help their kids’ future as well.

For local business people, Matthew P. Gelso, a Realtor, and his brother Robert “Doc” Gelso, a contractor, it was a family decision to invest in the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation.

“My brother and his wife, Mary, and my wife Kathy and I talked and thought that as a family, it was a good idea to support the Community Foundation,” Matt says. “We’ve been here a long time, we have successful businesses, our children were born here, we have property here and we feel it’s important to give back to the community.”

“We also want to get our kids involved by creating a legacy for them. Ten years from now when the Foundation is $10 million and our kids are young adults, they can have a say in where the money goes,” Matt adds.

“It really gets them thinking of sharing, of being part of the community. It was important to us that they really understood what we were doing. Their names will always be associated with the Foundation. No matter what happens, we will have all helped out with the initial growth of the Foundation.”

The Gelsos’ success story in Tahoe started about 24 years ago. Doc had moved to the South Lake Tahoe area from Boston in 1972, then on to Homewood, Calif., in 1974.

Matt joined him in 1976 after teaching in Boston for several years. They sat down to discuss how they would make a living in the Tahoe area.

Matt had his real estate license. Doc had his contractor’s license. Real estate and building were the logical ways to go.

They borrowed money from friends and family, bought their first lot for $8,000, built a house and sold it for about $65,000.

That was the beginning of a healthy, successful partnership that is going strong today. Although their businesses are independent of one another, they still consult on many projects.

“My wife Mary and I had gone to many of the organizational meetings when the foundation was getting started,” Doc relates. “We thought it was a great concept from the very beginning. Everyone wants to give back to their community and this is something that our child can be proud of, too. It’s a good way to teach your kids that there’s more to life than just receiving presents. You get way more value back. It’s the truism of life – if you’re good to your friends, they’re good to you. When you give, you get 10-fold back.”

The Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation is currently in the “matching funds” stage in which founding donor William Hewlett agreed to match all funds up to the first $1 million. So in essence, every dollar donated up to the first $1 million is double the value.

“We decided to jump in while we’re still in the matching funds stage because it meant that our donation was doubled, which adds to its intrinsic value,” Doc said.

“It’s an easy vehicle. We worked out our giving plan with the foundation so we can contribute the donation over a two-year period. Our commitment locked in the matching funds. They let us structure the donation to best allow the income and tax consequences. The flexibility really helped us.”

Aside from being involved as “founding members” and for teaching their children well, another factor for jumping in was the appeal of supporting the community as a whole.

“Like everyone, we donate to the Christmas fund, school functions, soccer teams, swim teams and other sports and fundraising dinners, but this is a tremendous was to support the community at large,” Matt said.

“It’s the bigger picture and it’s more long term. We joined forces and became founding members as ‘The Gelso Families,’ a donor-advised fund. Our families can administer how the funds are used which gives us hands-on involvement. It reminds us that we have a goal, that our family is represented in Truckee, that our kids can be proud of what the foundation is doing, whether it funds the Truckee River corridor, the arts, abused women, whatever, they’ll know they are a part of it.”

“Really and truly,” Matt said, “the people of the community who want to be involved in a different way can do so by giving to the Community Foundation.”

For information about ways to become involved in the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation, call Lisa Dobey, President, at (530) 587-1776.


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