Of Fathers and Philanthropy

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Creativity swirling around in my mind definitely comes from my dad. He’s imaginative, hilarious, an unconventional thinker and a constant writer. Even though our being too much alike predictably results in occasional friction, our conflicts never eclipse our respect, pride and love for each other.

My father’s philanthropic spirit has been a substantial force in my life, too. For as long as I can remember, he has shown profound compassion for people experiencing struggles. I suppose then it makes perfect sense that his background is in social work and that much of his employment and community service have focused on enhancing the lives of the mentally ill, the developmentally challenged and the marginalized.

During the entirety of his life and mine as well, Daddy has served in the church and for community causes. He was active in the Jaycees before I entered kindergarten, and some of my earliest memories are of the family taking part in his community service projects and fundraising events. Throughout my school days, he served on the school board and even led it as board chair. As little kids, Diatra and I helped with his campaigns each time an election rolled around. Daddy later became a trustee at the community college and eventually president of the National Association of Community College Trustees. He has always loved community service and in each instance poured himself and his resources into it and brought along his family on every pursuit into philanthropy.

In his retirement, Daddy remains active on nonprofit committees and still supports education by leading his local NC Central University alumni chapter. He volunteers so frequently, it’s often hard for me to keep up.

Daddy’s imprint on me is undeniable and quite obvious to people who know us both. My book Giving Back reflects the creativity he passed on and then nurtured within me. The book’s focus on philanthropy is the result of beliefs bequeathed to him and then handed down to his daughters. In recognition of philanthropic fathers everywhere and the power they possess to change the world through their children and generations yet unborn, below are excerpts from Giving Back about or from fathers and grandfathers. — VF

“Treat giving like tithes and getting your hair done.”

Daryl Parham (portrait with one of his three daughters shown right)

“I never consciously associated Granddaddy’s life with one of a philanthropist…I just thought that was who Granddaddy was. But, now I get it.”

Marcus Littles

“I have always admired how he overcame obstacles to blaze trails in business and eventually become the Raleigh region’s first African American owner and operator of McDonald’s franchises. While my father made an indelible mark in business, his servant spirit in giving defines his legacy.”

Reggie Pretty (shown left)

“My father is a deacon and he believes in taking care of the elderly and the widows. My father did shift work. I can remember him getting off graveyard, coming home to eat breakfast, and then, he and I would go out into the community.”

Lyord Watson, Jr.

“I feel obligated to give regularly like I am paying my monthly bills.”

James Mitchell (my late grandfather, shown right)

“My father modeled giving. His generous spirit touched everyone he met. And I came to realize that giving begins with belief – belief that the smallest gift can make a difference; believe that everyone is worthy of a chance and that each of us can provide that opportunity.”

Ruthye Cureton Cooley

“‘Give a youth a chance’ is almost a cliché, but as Dad’s mantra it is so much more than that.”

Lisa Crawford (her father John Crawford is shown left)

“Monetary wealth was not found in our family, yet Mama earned a reputation for being a generous woman who loved her family deeply, served her church devoutly and gave to all freely.”

Allen Fullwood

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