Donald “Don” Wilson describes giving in one word: compassion. He defines compassion as “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you can understand what their needs are and what they’re going through, I think that brings you to the point of giving.”
Don was influenced to give by his mother who showed him by example how to take care of and serve people.
A man of humble beginnings, Don was afforded the opportunity to attend Georgetown University, where he met his wife Jean.
“Jean and I got a great education and that has been the mover for us — it’s what has enabled us to do the things that we have done,” says Don, who retired as an executive vice president at the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company.
The couple supports a wide variety of nonprofits, both privately and through the Hartford Foundation, primarily focusing on organizations that promote educational opportunities for children. One such institution is Watkinson School in Hartford where Don once served as board president. The Wilsons also volunteer at The House of Bread, which services the hungry, homeless and needy population in the Hartford area. "We're involved with the House of Bread because you learn so much better if your stomach is full,” explains Don.
On the subject of their steadfast volunteerism, Don remarks, “We can never say no. We will volunteer for nearly anything. If you have the knowledge, and you have the love — the willingness and desire to do something for others — a very wise thing to do is to find the right charity and help it along.”
In 1995, Don and Jean established the donor advised Wilson Family Fund at the Hartford Foundation to help pursue their multiple charitable interests. “We wanted to preserve our giving and be able to pass it on for at least another generation,” says Don.
Don and Jean hope to instill a spirit of giving in their nine children and 19 grandchildren. They review their giving list with their children annually, asking for input and feedback, and have named successor fund advisors.
To date, the Wilson Family Fund has awarded 57 grants totaling nearly $273,000 to area nonprofits, in partnership with a fund advisor.
You can also contribute to the Wilson Family Fund and help support a variety of nonprofit programs.
Photo: Don and Jean Wilson and family. (Greenbrier Photography)