Seven decades of Hampton Roads philanthropy

In 2010, the Norfolk and Virginia Beach community foundations merged to form the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. We are the largest grant and scholarship provider in the region.

Our roots extend much farther back. It was 1950 when Norfolk civic leaders donated $2,350 to create The Norfolk Foundation, Virginia's first community foundation (now there are 30). The new foundation was regional from the start -- set up to be a permanent endowment to help residents of Norfolk “and a 50-mile radius.” The Virginia Beach Foundation, our 2010 merger partner, started in 1987 to build a permanent endowment for Virginia Beach and beyond.

Below are milestones from the past seven decades.

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  • (1950) The Norfolk Foundation is established as the first community foundation in Virginia
  • Creates the first of more than 90 scholarship funds with help from charitable people who value education.
  • Awards its first major grant -- $100,000 to help build a main library in downtown Norfolk.


  • Helps start Eastern Virginia Medical School and Virginia Wesleyan College.
  • Assists in preserving the historic Willoughby-Baylor House.
  • Buys a building for the Southside Boys & Girls Club in Berkley.
  • Helps create the MacArthur Memorial Museum in downtown Norfolk.


  • Helps Old Dominion University expand its oceanography program.
  • Supports expansion of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.
  • Expands medical school scholarships to include Eastern Virginia Medical School students.


  • Helps build the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), expand the Chrysler Museum of Art, renovate the Wells Theater and establish the Business Consortium for Arts Support.
  • Provides funding to expand WHRO’s television and radio studios.
  • Helps start the ACCESS College Foundation to help area students go to college.
  • Equips the first laboratories at the Leonard R. Strelitz Diabetes Center at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
  • Helps create Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk campus.
  • (1987) The Virginia Beach Community Foundation is established.


  • Helps build the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and NAUTICUS, renovate the Harrison Opera House, expand the Children’s Museum of Virginia and Norfolk Botanical Garden, open the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and start the Virginia Arts Festival.
  • Provides the United Way of South Hampton Roads $1.2 million to improve the buildings that house 15 area nonprofits.
  • Provides funds to expand the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, to improve the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Hampton Roads and to build a headquarters for the Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast.
  • Helps start ForKids Inc. to help homeless families gain stability.
  • Helps expand EVMS, Norfolk State University, ODU and Virginia Wesleyan.
  • Starts awarding piano grant funds from the E.K. Sloane Fund, which has since helped nonprofits put new pianos on stages throughout our region.


  • Creates the Academy for Nonprofit Excellence in partnership with Tidewater Community College.
  • Builds or expands early education centers in Franklin, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore.
  • Incubates Smart Beginnings South Hampton Roads initiative to give area children a good start in life.
  • Helps restore the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center, build St. Mary’s Home, renovate The Endependence Center and expand the Beach Health Clinic and Sugar Plum Bakery.
  • Creates ArtsMatch to help arts groups overcome critical state budget cuts.
  • Expands child and family programs at the YMCA of South Hampton Roads and helps build the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Federation Community.
  • Provides new exhibits for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Virginia Zoo and Children’s Museum of Virginia, equips an education room at the Chrysler Museum of Art, helps build the Sandler Center for Performing Arts, and provides exhibits and replica ships for the Jamestown 2007 celebration.
  • Creates multi-media classrooms at Tidewater Community College campuses in Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
  • Helps build Gosnold and Cloverleaf apartments for formerly homeless people and the Village Pointe Senior Housing community.
  • After Hurricane Isabel awards disaster grants to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and area chapters of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
  • Expands the ACCESS College Foundation programs to Virginia Beach and other area cities.
  • Assists Eastern Shore residents in starting the Eastern Shore of Virginia Community Foundation, an affiliate foundation.
  • Helps the Elizabeth River Project build and equip with exhibits the Learning Barge, a floating wetlands classroom.
  • Awards $1.1 million in grants to help 22 area nonprofits seeing increased demand for services during the recession for residents needing shelter, food, medical care and other basic needs.


  • On January 1, 2010, The Norfolk Foundation and The Virginia Beach Foundation merge to create the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.
  • Scholarships to college students begin exceeding $1 million each year.
  • Helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center, the greenest building in the world.
  • Helps build the new Slover Library in downtown Norfolk, the country's most technologically advanced library.
  • Helps Smart Beginnings Hampton Roads cut in half the rate of children in South Hampton Roads arriving at kindergarten needing remedial help or having to repeat the grade.
  • Helps Eastern Virginia Medical School expand its campus in order to increase its enrollment.
  • Helps the Chrysler Museum of Art add a glass studio and renovate and expand the museum.
  • Works in partnership with area nonprofits and cities to reduce homelessness in the region by supporting Housing First efforts and building new permanent supportive housing apartments.
  • Helps the Chesapeake Care Clinic and Beach Health Clinic expand their dental services for area residents with no dental insurance.
  • Helps the Salvation Army build a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Norfolk.
  • Assists the Elizabeth River Project, Lynnhaven River Now, Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and Chesapeake Bay Foundation in educating citizens about the importance of caring for their environment.
  • Incubates Reinvent Hampton Roads, a community leadership initiative focused on improving Hampton Roads' economic competitiveness and bringing more jobs to the region.
  • Helps the Virginia Zoo build an animal wellness and education center.
  • Works with residents of the Park Place community in Norfolk to make their neighborhood one of choice for home buyers.
  • Brings the FREE Foundation to the region to provide wheelchairs, walkers and other devices for uninsured or under-insured residents needing equipment.
  • Community Leadership Partners giving group hits a $1.7 million milestone in 2017 for total grants awarded to organizations working to help lower-income children succeed in school and life.
  • Partners with United Way of South Hampton Roads on grants to help four nonprofits improve access to dental care for low-income residents.
  • Awards Alfred L. Nicholson grants to expand Chesapeake Humane Society and Norfolk and Virginia Beach SPCAs and start Happy Paws Animal Training Center.
  • Assists Elizabeth River Project in creating Paradise Creek Nature Park.
  • Uses Sue Cook Winfrey Funds to help four domestic violence shelters work together to create a single crisis hotline and coordinated response program for the region.
  • Incubates Minus 9 to 5, an early care and education initiative designed to help area children from before birth through age 5 as well as their families.
  • Brings An Achievable Dream program to Virginia Beach and expands it from an elementary school to a middle school.
  • Begins formally focusings on diversity, equity and inclusion and the Understanding Hampton Roads learning series.
  • Supports Old Dominion University's Recover Hampton Roads project designed to help vulnerable neighborhoods quickly recover from natural disasters.
  • Funds programs focused on healthy eating for clients of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
  • Annual college scholarships begin topping $1 million in awards each year for students.