Published in the May 3 – May 16, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

There’s an important question people will at some point ask of themselves, especially as they grow into their older years: “What kind of legacy will I leave from my life?”

Based on the impressive donations provided to nonprofit organizations and student scholarship programs through the Gilroy Foundation, there’s no doubt many Gilroyans have asked that question of themselves. Many of our fellow citizens take to heart the foundation’s motto of “Give Where You Live” — with more than $331,000 in charitable-giving money presented at its annual meeting April 26. During the next few weeks they will give out more than $681,000. Since 1980, they have awarded $7.4 million in grants and scholarships.

The upstairs banquet room of the Old City Hall Restaurant was filled to capacity by residents watching the multitude of various grants focused on charitable giving presented to the awardees. We were impressed by the generosity of the many residents of Gilroy who clearly are motivated by the goal to make our South Valley community better. Two areas of special emphasis in the award grants were young people and the enhancement of the local arts.

We were especially pleased that young people were encouraged to participate in philanthropy endeavors. The local students involved in the Gilroy Foundation Youth Board presented a $1,000 grant to the Gilroy Police Department for use in the successful South County Youth Task Force, a program which has helped to reduce gang activities.
The Latino Family Fund also has a mission to encourage local young people to build generous hearts by presenting several awards of $500 each to various charity organizations.

Through the fund’s Youth in Philanthropy and Leadership program, Ascencion Solorsano Middle School students selected the Gilroy Compassion Center, Rebekah Children’s Service’s Culinary Academy and Silicon Valley Independent Living as their awardees. And South Valley Middle School gave $500 checks each to St. Joseph’s Family Center and the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.

The enhancement of our local youths was also seen in the awarding of the two biggest grants. The Julie Hayes “Rising Star” Performing Arts Competitive Grant gave $20,000 to the Gilroy High School Band to purchase new instruments, cases and equipment to replace those worn out through music practice and concert performances.
The Richard Hayes “Like a Rock” Industrial Arts Competitive Grant gave $20,000 to Rebekah Children’s Services’s Phoenix Non-Public School to purchase an interactive whiteboard for use in instruction for the at-risk students in its classrooms.

One Gilroy Foundation program we want citizens to know about is its Legacy Society. Membership helps local people and families set up bequests to continue supporting local charities with a system to enable legal estates to continuously give back to the community through a will or trust.

These can include donor-advised or designated funds for a specific nonprofit organization or field-of-interest funds for a cause an individual might care about.

This year’s designated grants through the Gilroy Foundation totaled more than $200,000. The donor-advised grants were about $35,000. The minimum amount of money needed to start a separate Legacy Society fund is $10,000. This is a lot of money for many people, but don’t despair. The Gilroy Foundation can work with you to build that amount over the years by tracking the donations you place into it until you reach the amount needed to launch your special fund.

Not only individuals but many local businesses have taken steps to make sure they leave a lasting legacy for the community of Gilroy’s future benefit. The Gilroy Foundation put a special spotlight on its three “sustaining sponsors” and thanked local garlic grower Christopher Ranch, Gilroy Toyota, and Pinnacle Bank for their commitment to the community and the programs they help fund in the region.

Gilroy is a community that cares about educating the minds of its young people. This year, the Gilroy Foundation presented $683,750 in scholarship money ranging from $250 to four $50,000 given to graduating high school students through the Julio Mata Family Scholarships fund.

We hope the students who can attend college thanks to the money they receive might appreciate the generosity of the people who provided them with the funds and consider creating their own lasting legacy by setting up scholarship funding to continue paying their good fortune forward to the next generation of Gilroyans.

We encourage the individuals, families and businesses in the South Valley to consider creating a legacy through the Gilroy Foundation and invest in our future.

The British leader Winston Churchill advised: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Those are words of wisdom if you, like us, care about our community and want to make sure the quality of life here is protected and enhanced for the next generations.

To learn more about the Gilroy Foundation and how it can help you create a legacy for your life or your family’s benefit to the community, visit or call the foundation’s executive director, Donna Pray, at (408) 842-3727.

Marty Cheek