“We can help beginning on a small scale. And to me, that’s what community is all about.”
Erin Rouse looks after one of the oldest funds at the Community Foundation of Louisville. The fund was started by her aunt almost 30 years ago, carried on by her mother, and is now run by her and her sister-in-law, Mary Jo Davis. Erin has seen firsthand the importance of generations dedicated to the mission of philanthropy.
Elizabeth (Betty) Thomas began her Donor Advised Fund in 1991 before passing away at the age of 93, when it was passed on to Erin’s mother, Maryann Cawthorne Davis. “The Community Foundation,” Erin says, “is a source for good in the community, in the world around you. I think that was why my aunt chose it in the beginning. My aunt Betty was a really amazing lady. She was just a real gogetter, a very successful business woman in her own right.”
In the years since Erin’s own mother passed, she has taken over the fund with her sister-in-law, and has seen that “source for good” in the world more closely. “We can’t change it all, but we can help people, one at a time. We can help in our communities. We can help beginning on a small scale. And to me, that’s what community is all about. And that’s what the Community Foundation helps you do.” But she recognizes this doesn’t begin and end with her.
Now that she has taken a much more active role in the distribution of funds, she’s been able to reflect on the power of giving, and that giving is key, regardless of what you have to give. “No matter how much you have, there’s always somebody who has less. That idea can change a person’s life. Then, that can change another person’s life, and that can change another. And suddenly, collectively, you can do big things. Our family believes that it’s up to us to teach our children and the next generation about giving, and about being generous, sharing what we have, serving, and helping other people. And so, this is a great way to help pass that baton on. Thankfully, the Community Foundation has all the resources to teach you how to do it.”
In the end, Erin Rouse attributes her knowledge and ability to give to the people that came before her. Generations of giving have shown impact not only in the community, but among Erin’s family. It has become something that she has learned from those before her and something that she continues to teach her own children. Most of that can be traced back to Aunt Betty, who started the fund so long ago. “Both my mother and my aunt had a lot of spunk – very, very capable and sharp. And I think my aunt would say today, ‘Of course, it’s made an impact. I didn’t expect any less.’ And we’d pat her on the back and we’d say, ‘You’re right, Aunt Betty.’”