Though the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many physically separated, the past year has only brought Irit and Dana Waldbaum, mother and daughter, closer together.
“My parents and my family have formed a six-person bubble, which means we’re basically each other’s social life these days,” says Dana, a mother of two young girls. “Being together has led us to talk a lot about how we can best support those who have been affected by the pandemic and strategically consider the impact we want to make through our giving.”
In the past, Irit and her husband Art have largely prioritized funding to organizations that nourish and sustain cultural and spiritual life in the Greater Denver region. However, conversations with Dana, her husband Adam and their granddaughters about the pandemic’s devastating health, economic and social impacts compelled them to reorient their grantmaking toward addressing basic needs.
“Traditionally, Art and I have directed much of our giving toward supporting the region’s Jewish community, as well as the local arts ecosystem,” Irit says. “This past year, however, our entire family agreed that we wanted to support the broader community. Our priority at this moment has to be doing all we can to help people survive.”
Responding to COVID-19
When the virus first reached Colorado, the family sat down together to discuss how they could best respond. They identified a number of shared priority issue areas – food, housing, health care, and other basic needs – and then heard that Rose Community Foundation had established a pooled fund for individuals who wanted to support the Foundation’s equity-focused grantmaking response to the pandemic.
“The basic needs we had identified as a family were the exact same issues the R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Fund was created to support,” shares Dana. “The Foundation had done all the research for us and packaged up a comprehensive response to the most pressing community needs.”
“We felt we would get more bang for our buck, and could extend our dollars further, by aligning our funding with the Foundation’s,” adds Irit. “We trust Rose and feel confident that their response aligns with our priorities.”
In addition to making multiple gifts to the R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Fund, the Waldbaums have worked closely with the Foundation’s philanthropic services staff to identify supplemental opportunities to give at the intersection of their longstanding grantmaking priorities and emerging needs. Throughout the remainder of 2020, Irit and Art supported local Jewish organizations that are responding to COVID-19’s impacts, while Dana, Adam and their daughters focused on funding racial justice and reproductive health efforts.
“Working with the Foundation’s philanthropic services team makes giving easier, quicker and more effective,” says Irit. “They are tapped into how nonprofits are responding to COVID, which means I don’t have to do extensive due diligence myself – if Rose says an organization is good, we know it’s good. Seeing where Rose puts their money has always been a helpful guide for how I can make a philanthropic difference.”
Passing family values from one generation to the next
Since Dana and her brother, Ron, were children, Irit and Art have emphasized a set of values that remain at the center of the entire family’s philanthropic approach. Though Ron and his family now live in Israel, he also makes grants through the family’s donor-advised fund, both independent of and in collaboration with Dana and her family.
“We wanted our kids to recognize at a young age that there are people in the world that have less than you and it’s not their fault,” Irit stresses. “Giving back to your community, caring about other people – these are not things to do just to do them. It’s a responsibility of ours; it’s our duty as human beings.”
This philosophy, which Irit says she and Art learned from their own parents, is now being passed from Dana and Adam to their daughters.
“We started very young with our kids, as my parents did with me,” says Dana. “Whether through our volunteer work – decorating and filling bags of food for people experiencing hunger via Project Angel Heart or helping immigrants at Denver Health with clothes and backpacks for the school year – or now participating in conversations about where to direct COVID-relief grants, it’s important that our daughters understand the importance of giving back.”
Dana continues, “it’s critical that these values of empathy and thoughtfulness, of putting others’ needs ahead of your own, are passed down from one generation to the next.”
Reflecting back on her own childhood, Irit is humbled by her family’s capacity to support those in the community that have been most affected by the pandemic.
“I feel so fortunate,” shares Irit. “As a little girl, you always hope that when you grow up you will be like your mother. The opportunities that I’ve had, my mother couldn’t have ever dreamed about. With that comes a responsibility to share what I have. And I’ve tried to instill that in my kids, and I know they try to instill that in their kids.”
Then, with a chuckle she adds, “As I say to Art every morning: count your blessings and shut up.”
In this time when we cannot physically reach out to others in our community, we CAN come together through our giving. Interested in supporting Rose Community Foundation’s ongoing, equity-focused response to the medical, economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in seven-county Metro Denver? Consider giving to our R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Fund today!