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Endowment goes to work

A community fund shepherds work by other, smaller causes.

Sebastian Eliahu Galpert died in 1999, a month before his second birthday.

In gratitude for community support during their son’s illness, Larry Galpert and Amalia Escobar established a fund to underwrite philanthropic projects by island young people.

But Galpert found managing the fund unwieldy without guidance or school connections; after several “grantless” years, he put the money under the control of the Bainbridge Island Community Endowment, a tax-exempt charity founded in 2001 to support island nonprofits.

This month, the Sebastian Eliahu Galpert Memorial Fund awarded the first Sebastian Award for Adventures in Altruism for two projects carried out by middle schoolers – Woodward students’ lunches for the homeless, and Hyla students’ fund-raising to buy Christmas gifts for an island family.

“It was thanks to the Community Endowment – and particularly to Sandy Schubach – that we were finally able to get it going,” Galpert said. “It’s a wonderful feeling, after we tried for two years.”

Schubach, one of 15 Community Endowment board members, volunteered to shape and shepherd the distribution of the first grants.

“I said, ‘sure, I’d be happy to help with this,’” Schubach said. “I have the connections with the schools through my son, Conrad, who attends Wilkes.”

Board members are assigned to specific funds derived from gifts of cash, stocks or property, from which grants are made to groups and organizations ranging from general “fields of interest” to specific scholarships and memorials.

The Community Endowment, modeled after similar funds in Seattle and Tacoma, supplanted an underdeveloped Bainbridge Foundation trust.

It began with seed money of nearly $200,000, and now handles five “donor advised” funds with island beneficiaries.

Key to the endowment, volunteer director Stephen Davis says, is giving the same careful attention to relatively small sums like the Sebastian Eliahu Galpert Memorial Fund – the total of the two initial grants was less than $500 – that a charitable remainder trust established with half a million would receive.

Disbursement

The first step Schubach took in shaping the Galpert Memorial grants was to interview the family to find out what they wanted the grants to accomplish, and which age group to target.

“I learned they haven’t had much experience with teens,” Schubach said. “But I knew that if kids were going to come up with ideas, they needed to be older.”

Schubach suggested middle schoolers as the target population to receive grants.

Galpert wanted the fund to have more impact than the relatively small sums awarded might imply; one way to accomplish that might be to make the application process competitive. Applicants would be asked to research the cost of a project, and plan the logistics of carrying it out.

“We did want it to be a competition of sorts, to encourage the participation of as many kids as possible,” Galpert said.

Even if every application couldn’t be funded, going through the process would be a “useful exercise” for the kids, Galpert and Schubach believed, and perhaps would move even more parents and neighbors to contribute.

This first round of grants was deliberately kept small, with invitations for proposals limited to Woodward’s elective Leadership Class, and to Hyla Middle School teacher Chris Johnson’s math students.

The Woodward kids were awarded $199.37 for supplies to make 110 sack lunches, which they will deliver to homeless people in Pioneer Square next month.

Three Hyla students received a total of $300 to help buy food for the school’s annual lunch benefit, which in turn provided the money used to buy presents for an “adopted” Helpline family.

“In early December, I actually went into the classrooms and gave kids the checks,” Schubach said. “That was way fun. At Hyla, the three girls were hopping up and down.”

The students – seventh-grader Madeline Sheldon, and eighth-graders Alexandra Tayara and Katherine Jennings – have often done community projects led by school or family, they say, but applying for this independent project demanded more skills.

“We had to ask some teachers about the numbers and we had to figure out net profit,” Sheldon said.

More fun was the shopping “spree” for the family’s gifts.

“They have their wish list, so you sort of have an idea,” Tayara said, “but on some things you have to guess. One thing that was really cool – we got a bonsai tree at Bainbridge Gardens.”

To Galpert, seeing the memorial fund begin to contribute to his community means that the generosity his family received during his son’s illness is now being passed along through new charitable acts.

“The gift must always move, because once it stops moving it dies,” he said. “In order to stay alive, it needs to continue.”

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