Making an Impact in Athens
Athens couple give back through their educational fund.
Athens Area Community Foundation was a brand-new idea in 2008, and Myra Blackmon and her late husband Tom Holland were among the foundation’s early cheerleaders.
“We really wanted Athens to have a community foundation,” explained Myra. “And then, when it did get started, we were delighted from the get-go.”
Experienced consultants and teachers, this husband and wife team knew plenty about nonprofits.
Myra served a diverse clientele through her PR firm, M. Blackmon Public Relations in Athens. Tom founded the Nonprofit Institute and Master of the Nonprofit Organization programs at UGA. The pair also worked together as nonprofit consultants.
“We worked with some amazing clients over the years,” said Myra. “We worked with a lot of bigger nonprofits, and we worked internationally. Tom had a Fulbright that took us to Prague.”
Working around the world didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for Athens, though. Not long after the community foundation launched, they saw a chance to invest locally.
“We had some stock in a large educational company we didn’t want to continue to own for a variety of reasons,” she said, “so we used that to form the Holland Blackmon Fund for Children.”
Their fund at the Athens Area Community Foundation supports education-related projects for low-income children.
“We wanted to be able to support things that didn’t always get done — pay for tutoring, buy eyeglasses, support lunch programs. Whatever that needs to be,” said Myra.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Over the years, they’ve supported a variety of local causes. They’ve given to Girl Scouts and CASA (now Children First). They’ve also helped fund Reach Scholarships — scholarships that encourage students to finish school and pursue college degrees.
“We’ve been able to do a lot of cool things,” she added. "We've been able to help fund Reach Scholarships, for example. To know we're helping kids who really need this, kids who really see the importance of education — it's incredibly gratifying."
Myra also loves being able to continue the family legacy of philanthropy.
“[Giving back] is one of our family values,” she said. “We were raised that way. That’s the way I’ve tried to live and I believe my brothers tried to, too. My parents certainly did.”
Giving through the Holland Blackmon Fund is one way to honor those family values.
“My financial plan has an annual amount that goes into this fund. And to know that it will be there in perpetuity is tremendously satisfying. I will give for the rest of my life and that legacy will continue as far down the road as any of us can see,” she said. “Just sitting here and thinking about that? I’m about to cry. It gives me a sense of peace to know that the Holland Blackmon Fund for Children will still be helping children 100 years from now. It’s very powerful.”
Supporting these local causes is uncomplicated thanks to the Athens Area Community Foundation and its staff — including CEO and President Sarah McKinney and Director of Donor Services Kipper Koslowsky.
“Sarah and Kipper make it so easy,” said Myra. “It’s really very efficient. I like that.”
And with their help, givers can find more ways to make a local impact.
“The community foundation is the most comprehensive way we have to identify solutions to community problems,” said Myra. “So, if you don’t know what you want to do with your money, they can give you expert, non-biased guidance. They can help you make sure your money works the best it can. There’s really no one else who does that.”
And it’s a boost to the nonprofit community, too.
“I value how much the foundation wants to strengthen the nonprofit sector in general, too. They offer board education and different things like that.,” she added. “It’s not just about giving money. It’s also about enhancing the community’s capacity.”