In the Community

Norfolk Rotary Endowment: Underpinning Good Works Forever

Rotarians Mark Shaw (left), Kelly Stefanko, Gary Boswick and Bryce Burton help their club put grants into action in Hampton Roads.
An idea hatched 25 years ago has grown into a half-million-dollar charitable endowment that has helped dozens of Hampton Roads nonprofits.

The Rotary Club of Norfolk created an endowment fund in 1992 at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation with $15,000 donated by club members.

“I’m very surprised it has done so well,” says Mark Shaw, who was club president back then and brainstormed the idea with his father-in-law, Harry E. McCoy Jr., who also is a club member.

The duo proposed the endowment to develop a “permanent fund to give future Rotarians the opportunity to do larger (charitable) projects or multiyear projects,” Mark says. He bounced the idea off club members, and 15 of them stepped forward with initial contributions of $1,000 each.

“They were really excited about developing something for the future use of the club and that it would be designated for local community efforts,” Mark recalls.

The Norfolk Rotary Endowment is one of more than 40 endowments the community foundation administers for area nonprofits. Over the past quarter century, the Rotary endowment has grown to more than $512,000 while distributing more than $116,600 to use for grants to benefit dozens of Hampton Roads charities.

Club members have added to the endowment through donations and bequests to the club, and foundation investments have fueled additional growth.

Among the beneficiaries of the club’s funds are the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Autism Society of Tidewater, Friends of Norfolk’s Environment, Governor’s School for the Arts, Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Hope House Foundation, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, Norfolk SPCA and St. Mary’s Home.

A 2016 grant to the Virginia Arts Festival paid for craft supplies for people with disabilities who enjoyed activities set up for them before attending the Virginia International Tattoo. A 2015 Edmarc Hospice grant bought supplies for area children in hospice care and their families.

“We like to pick an organization where we think (our grant) will have a tangible impact so you really feel something is going to happen,” says club president Gary Boswick, who headed the 2017 grant selection committee.

The Rotary endowment promotes pride among the nearly 140 members of the Norfolk club, which was founded in 1914. “When I joined, I knew Rotary was a big service organization, but I had no idea about the local endowment. So that’s been a really nice bonus,” says Kelly Stefanko, a board member who served on the 2017 grants committee.

The endowment has “been a great resource, and it’s earmarked specifically for Hampton Roads,” Gary says. “Our club is growing in members. We’re a vibrant group with active fundraising. So I think the sky’s the limit for our endowment and for helping Hampton Roads."

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