Columns Opinion Your Views — 18 November 2011

Community Foundation Week is this week. One might ask, “So what?”

Throughout the United States, community foundations exist to focus philanthropic giving and community engagement in cities and towns to improve the long-term strength of perhaps our greatest assets: the communities in which we live.

Vice Mayor Kerry Donley

All of us want strong communities in order to provide safety, security and a high quality of life, and community foundations are one vehicle to achieve these goals.

In Alexandria, we are fortunate to have ACT for Alexandria serving this vital role. Founded in 2004, ACT for Alexandria was created through a generous gift from the Steurle family in memory of Norma Steurle, a community activist who died September 11, 2001, at the Pentagon. ACT’s mission is to increase the level and effectiveness of giving and engagement in Alexandria through philanthropy and collaboration by our residents who always have displayed an extraordinary amount of civic pride.

ACT is not just another community nonprofit organization. It strengthens our existing nonprofits through grants to improve fundraising, governance and efficiency in service delivery. To date, more than 20 nonprofits have received more than $500,000 in Capacity Building Grants enabling them to better meet the human service needs in Alexandria. ACT makes our nonprofits stronger and more effective.

Together with the City of Alexandria, Volunteer Alexandria and the Alexandria Jaycees, ACT for Alexandria has spearheaded Spring for Alexandria, a three-day celebration held in May highlighting giving and service that has brought together more than 2,000 residents and volunteers. During Spring for Alexandria we focus on ways to contribute time and treasure to improve our city. Volunteer service projects, donation centers for clothing and household items, recognition of significant philanthropy and corporate service are highlighted throughout the three days known as Spring for Alexandria.

But ACT for Alexandria’s commitment does not end there. ACT’s list of activities includes:

Spring2Action, an online giving event that raised more than $100,000 for 47 nonprofits this year; involvement with the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, the City of Alexandria and Virginia Tech on a community indicators project; engaging the next generation of Alexandrians through Give Back Alexandria, a group of more than 300 young adults engaged in social networking, volunteerism and philanthropy to benefit our city; and countless other projects.

Although relatively young as an organization, ACT for Alexandria is quickly making its mark in Alexandria. In keeping with its mission, ACT has brought more philanthropy focused on Alexandria and its human service needs. ACT has focused on making our existing nonprofits stronger and more effective and has sought to broaden not only philanthropy and giving, but also service and volunteerism.

As we celebrate Community Foundations Week, let us all be thankful for ACT and its efforts here in Alexandria. Let us also be grateful for the hundreds of community foundations throughout the country working to improve cities and towns now and in the future.

The writer is vice mayor of Alexandria.

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