Barry and Gay Curtiss-Lusher

Reflections on Giving: Barry and Gay Curtiss-Lusher

Barry and Gay Curtiss-Lusher’s relationship with Rose Community Foundation extends back to the 1990s when Barry served on the board of Rose Medical Center. Barry was a member of the strategic planning committee that recommended forming Rose Community Foundation out of the proceeds from the sale of the hospital. Barry served on the initial Jewish Life committee and he and his wife, Gay, have continued to partner with the Foundation through their donor-advised fund and as members of the Rose Community Legacy Circle; however, the couple’s philanthropy and community involvement reach far beyond Rose Community Foundation.

Barry was the national chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), board chair of Colorado Public Radio and Rose Medical Center, and currently serves on the board of the Denver Jewish Community Center (JCC) and Rose Community Foundation’s Philanthropic Services committee. Gay has served on the boards of Jewish Family Service, ADL Mountain States and the Denver JCC.

Beyond their volunteer and philanthropic work, Barry and Gay recently participated in Rose Community Foundation’s ethical will workshop with speaker and author Nancy Sharp. An ethical will is a written or dictated record used to share one’s personal stories, blessings, life lessons and hopes for the future with family, friends and community. The ethical will workshop consisted of four sessions where Rose Community Legacy Circle donors reflected on the values and stories they would like to share with their loved ones and future generations.

“The way that Nancy led us through the process motivated us to start putting words on paper,” says Gay. “By connecting with other workshop participants, we got different ideas from one another,” adds Barry.

Since the completion of the workshop, participants have continued to gather for conversation and reflection. “The ethical will workshop was one of the greatest gifts we’ve received,” said Gay. “It was a remarkable experience for us, and we truly appreciated being included.”

The value of philanthropy and their role as donors in the community were topics both Barry and Gay reflected on when drafting their ethical will. “One of the topics I wrote about was the importance of community involvement in our lives and how much we get out of it,” said Barry. “Because Rose produced this opportunity, it kept philanthropy and our giving in focus. I think it’s wonderful that Rose offers programs that nurture how donors and philanthropists feel about the community and giving.”

Over the years they have spent working in the community, Barry and Gay learned what meaningful giving means to them. “When we first moved to Denver and were beginning our professional careers, we both got involved in an ADL Young Leadership program,” said Barry. “When we made our first gift there, we agonized over it. We wrote a check for $100, and that was the biggest amount we could imagine.”

“Whatever gift is personally meaningful to you is really what’s important,” said Gay. “For some people that may be six figures or seven figures, for other people it’s the $100 gift,” adds Barry. “We give both our time and dollars because it is enriching to us.”

Though Barry and Gay primarily manage their giving collaboratively, they differ in their strengths and interests. While Barry tends to focus on the overall direction of their giving and is an experienced fundraiser, Gay prefers to spend her time in a hands-on capacity, volunteering at organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Denver JCC. “We feel that we get as much as we give,” said Gay. “The friendships we have with others who are involved with community organizations have been wonderful parts of our lives.” The two have also included their three children in their philanthropic process, instilling the importance of giving and community from a young age.

“With our donor-advised fund, we used to have an annual meeting where our children would help us choose grantees,” said Barry. “About eight or nine years ago, they formed their own fund where they now make grants separate from us.” Their oldest son, Ben, recently finished a stint as national chair of Moishe House and is currently the board chair-elect for JEWISHcolorado. “We are so fortunate, and it feels good to give back to this community that has been so wonderful to our family,” said Gay.

For those wanting to get involved in philanthropy, Barry advises, “Give of yourself—your time and energy—in addition to your dollars.” Adds Gay, “there’s no gift too small. It’s as simple as doing what you love.”

For more information about legacy giving and our ethical will program, please contact Judy Altenberg, director of donor funds and legacy giving.

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