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Community Story

The Power of Keeping Giving Local

Why one couple gives through the Athens Area Community Foundation

For Rod and Ethel Rutledge, it’s not just about making a donation.

It’s about sharing their love of giving.

“I think giving is kind of in our DNA. My parents, Ethel’s parents  — we come from a family of givers,” explained Rod. “I think it was rooted in our parents and passed on to us and we passed it on to our children.”

The Rutledges are honoring that legacy of giving with the Rutledge Lathen Fund at the Athens Area Community Foundation.

“It was named for our parents,” said Ethel. “We were involved with the community foundation in Charleston [when we lived there]. [When we moved] Rod sought out the community foundation here. We had a fund at the one in Charleston, and we transferred it here.”

With teachers and musicians in the family tree, projects supporting education or music are always near to their hearts. But they also use the Rutledge Lathen Fund to support immediate needs in their community, too.

“We were flooded out of our home in Charleston for three years in a row. That’s basically how we ended up here [in Athens]. And fortunately, we had resources. We had insurance. But so many people didn’t have resources,” explained Ethel. “So many people were living in basic shacks. The flood just wiped them out. Some senior citizens were living in mold. It was a sad situation.”

And giving through their local community foundation was one way to make a difference.

“We couldn’t take it on ourselves to find the individuals who needed help, but we knew we could give to a local organization,” added Ethel.

And they’ve continued that tradition since moving to Athens in 2018.

Rod served as a board member with the community foundation in Charleston. So, connecting with the Athens Area Community Foundation — where he also serves on the board — was an easy decision.

“I know Sarah [McKinney, President & CEO of Athens Area Community Foundation,] and the other staff. They have their finger on the pulse of the community. That’s why I love it so much. That’s why we continue to support it,” said Rod. “I just think the community foundation is the eyes and ears of the community. They know what the challenges are. They have the ability to be very broad-based.”

Ethel echoed those feelings.

“We’re members of Athens Church. And I love the model they use. They don’t start all these programs themselves. They don’t try to recreate the wheel. Rather, they fund existing programs and organizations that are out there. They’ll partner with them. And that’s sort of how we look at the [Athens Area] Community Foundation,” she said. “When you have an organization that has a good reputation and good stewardship, it makes it easy to support and it’s local.”

Want to know more about the Athens Area Community Foundation and how you can open a fund? Contact us at 706-357-7148 or smckinney@athensareacf.org. 


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The Athens Area Community Foundation is a public grantmaking foundation that builds community by encouraging long term giving through funds created by caring donors.

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