Empty Stocking Fund
Community Story

Brighter Future for Generations of Students

How one mom turned tragedy into a brighter future for generations of students. When Glada Horvat lost her 16-year-old son, Michael, to suicide in 2017, she could have just focused on healing from the loss. But instead, she decided to give back.

When Glada Horvat lost her 16-year-old son, Michael, to suicide in 2017, she could have just focused on healing from the loss.

But instead, she decided to give back.

“We had directed donations [in Michael’s memory] to the Foundation for Excellence in Public Education to set up an ‘Excellence in Coaching’ award in his name for the Clarke County School District,” explained Glada. “I also wanted to set up a scholarship fund and approached [FFE Executive Director] CJ [Amason] about a month later. She referred me to Sarah [McKinney] and the Athens Area Community Foundation.”

When Glada learned more about the Athens Area Community Foundation, she said she realized it was a great way to honor Michael and support other students.

“As I read up on the foundation, I was impressed with the number of local people involved and the impact it was having on the quality of life for citizens in our community,” she said. “I had some life insurance proceeds from my son’s death and when I saw that a $20,000 donation could be turned into a $1,000 annual award, it seemed like a great way to honor his memory and help students with college expenses.”

Together with the AACF, Glada and her family set up a fund to benefit a senior at Cedar Shoals High School — the school where all three of the Horvats’ children attended. Setting up this fund meant giving back didn’t have to be a one-time event.

“If I had just given the school $1,000 a year, the funds would be gone in 20 years,” she said. “But if I made a donation to the community foundation, the award could be made every year in perpetuity.”

They’ve also set up a donor-advised fund — The Michael Peter Horvat Fund.

“I’m working to grow that fund and am looking forward to making grants with Michael in mind,” Glada explained. “Last year, for example, I made one to a project at Barnett Shoals Elementary where he attended and his third-grade teacher, Mrs. Aliceson Nobles, is now the principal.

“It’s pretty awesome that a regular person like me can basically have their own foundation without doing any work other than creating a fund and making grants. The staff and board at AACF are experts at managing the legal aspects and the finances while also keeping an eye on the needs of the community.”

Glada knows first-hand the impact of scholarships and higher education. She’s the Senior Association Athletic Director at UGA, and part of her job includes administering scholarships.

“I’ve seen the impact a scholarship makes on the trajectory of a student’s life, especially those who are the first in their family to go to college,” she said. “It’s amazing how far a family can go in just one generation when they have the advantage of a college education.”

She has also seen the difference AACF can make for other organizations.

“I’ve been an officer for 30 years in the UGA chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and I’m currently serving as treasurer. Our board voted last year to set up a fund at the AACF and it has been so successful that we’ve increased both the number and value of our annual high school scholarships,” she explained. “It’s rewarding to be able to help more students because of the foundation’s great stewardship.”

Whether it’s giving scholarships or giving encouragement, Glada said she’s learned over the years that we can all make a difference.

“We all have something to give — whether it’s a smile, a hug, a listening ear, a word of encouragement or financial resources,” she said. “And it makes the world a better place when we actively do things to show that we love our neighbor.”


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