From Katrina and Rita to Truckee: Investing in community |

From Katrina and Rita to Truckee: Investing in community

My mind is haunted with the pictures of poverty in Southern Louisiana.

It’s awkward to speak politely about money in public and yet it is at the heart of our culture. Better philosophers than I have looked at the juxtaposition of our society’s values around wealth and equity. One core belief in the United States is an entrepreneurial freedom that enables individuals to amass great wealth. On the other hand, we have a value of equality that resonates in our society’s soul.

It’s at this intersection that community foundations work.

Did you look at the Forbes 400 wealthiest people? Of these, 278 reported a net worth of $1 billion or more. This vast wealth is a resource. It represents an opportunity for private individuals to respond to needs and opportunities in our communities. It’s an opportunity of giving by individuals to individuals ” not government funding.

Then there are the rest of us who didn’t quite make the Forbes 400 (the cutoff this year was $750 million in assets). It didn’t stop us from writing checks, donating on-line, or attending a fundraiser to help hurricane victims.

This wealth ” large and small ” has resulted in more than $1.2 billion donated to help victims of Katrina so far. These donations accomplish something that money can’t buy, a sense of belonging to the community of humankind.

I visited with my colleague, Ben Johnson, CEO of the Greater New Orleans Community Foundation, last week. He talked quietly and eloquently of the role the community foundation will have in rebuilding New Orleans. He spoke of donations that will be used to rebuild a better New Orleans than the one destroyed and the commitment of board and staff to enable a broader voice to be heard as they rebuild their city.

That’s what community foundations bring to the table ” an in-depth knowledge of how to enter the community, to speak its language, and to encourage interactions to enable people to learn from and with each other. We do it everyday.

The power of donors who give through Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation is visible everywhere in the region. Did you enjoy the Lake Tahoe Music Festival? Did you hike a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail or help with Truckee River Day? Did you end up in Tahoe Forest Hospital or know someone whose family used hospice? Did you attend a performance of the Sierra Mountaineers, the Railroad Regulators, or InnerRhythms? Do you have a child in the school district or one who has visited the KidZone or attended an Arts for the Schools performance?

Yes, Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation and our donors have supported all of these projects over the years. We’re the experts for charitable giving in North Tahoe and are creating a community of people who invest our community. If our region ever has a disaster, we’ll be here doing our job.

Our job is to make it easy for you to give. Our job is to encourage it. Our job is to give this gift of a strong community and beautiful region to our children and our grandchildren so that we are known as people who thought way beyond ourselves, who thought of the future.

Sounds pretty high-faluting. It’s not. Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation has a sound understanding of the people, the community, and the conditions of our region. We understand how the nonprofit and the power structure works to make sure your charitable dollars get to those who truly need it and use it wisely.

In other words, community foundations transform ” not simply financially endow ” our community in ways that leave a permanent legacy. Whether you define your community as Truckee, North Tahoe, California, the United States or the entire world, invest in it.

The returns on your investment are awesome.

Lisa Dobey is CEO of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. She can be reached at 530-587-1776 or

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