July 21, 2016
When Beatrice Oberkirch Curtis passed away in March 2013, it set into motion a series of events that unlocked a major philanthropic resource for New Jersey and with it the story of her late husband who, years before his own death, put together the pieces to perpetuate his family’s philanthropic legacy.
Retired from the law firm Mendes & Mount and living in Stillwater, Ralph Curtis wrote in his will that upon his death and the death of his wife Beatrice, a legacy fund would be created at the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
The fund would be named the Marjorie and Linda Curtis Memorial Fund, a tribute to Ralph’s first wife, who died in 1985, and their daughter Linda, who died in 1965. Ralph Curtis died in 1998.
“As Ralph lost both his wife and daughter, we can only imagine how important it was for him to honor them with this fund,” said Hans Dekker, president of the Community Foundation. “We imagine Ralph, Marjorie, and Linda had many happy moments and we want to honor and reflect that happiness in the good work we do on their behalf.”
Ralph was deliberate in the way he structured his bequest, putting no limits on the ways in which the philanthropic dollars could be deployed and instead fully entrusting the Community Foundation to identify effective interventions to make New Jersey and the world a better place.
Since it was established in July 2014, the Community Foundation’s Leadership Committee has allocated funds from the Marjorie and Linda Curtis Memorial Fund to support strategic grantmaking in the following ways:
- Energy services – The Curtis Fund provided support to enable nonprofit organizations to benefit from energy audits led by GreenFaith to reduce their carbon footprints and the cost of purchasing energy.
- Microlending – The Curtis Fund will be a principal supporter of the Community Foundation’s commitment to establishing a Grameen America branch in greater Newark later this year, aimed at providing much needed seed capital to low income women seeking to build businesses and gain a better economic foothold for their families.
- Recovery Services Support – as part of the Community Foundation’s Changemaker initiative aimed at bringing attention to and support for New Jerseyans suffering from the current opiate addiction epidemic, the Curtis Fund helped provide ongoing support to the NJ Connect recovery helpline, which counsels recovering addicts and their families.
- Celebrating Newark’s History – Curtis Fund resources supported Newark 350 Celebration, a yearlong series of events and programs that commemorate the founding of New Jersey’s largest city, its rich diversity, and its future promise.
- Social and Economic Justice – the Curtis Fund helped support the work of Faith in New Jersey, a grassroots organization that works across the state with faith-based and other local community organizations to advance social and economic justice.
Ralph Curtis hardly could have imagined the myriad ways his bequest has improved – and will continue to improve – communities across New Jersey, and that is just as well. But we are heartened by the trust he placed in us to do good work on his behalf, and we are committed to honoring his legacy every day.
We know that charitable families across New Jersey create legacy funds at the Community Foundation for many reasons, from their desire to have an enduring, positive impact on the communities they care about to their inherent trust in our team to execute their philanthropic vision faithfully.
The Foundation is always interested to work with families on incorporating their family history and charitable motivations into their funds and their legacies.
There are more Legacy Funds like this one yet to be established, and we are determined to help more of New Jersey’s philanthropic families discover the ways they can give back in perpetuity. To learn more about Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation of New Jersey, click here, download our fact sheet, or contact Hans Dekker at 973-267-5533.