The following new funds and planned gifts were established at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in 2023. We are proud to partner with these generous individuals, families, and organizations to improve the quality of life in our region. (Some of our donors choose to remain anonymous.)

Acacia Zawadi Seeds for Change Fund

Donor Advised Fund

Shawnee Baldwin is deeply concerned about the environment, for herself, but more so for her six grandchildren who will inherit this planet. Instead of waiting for the legislature or large organizations to act, she chose to create a donor advised fund and “green source” some local projects.

“Many towns and schools have exciting initiatives, such as composting, expanding the tree canopy, curtailing idling of internal combustion engines, planting pollinator pathways, and making buildings more efficient.  These projects often require some seed funds to get off the ground, so that’s what the Acacia Zawadi Seeds for Change Fund will support. It’s going to take many creative minds to chop away at the things that contribute to the health of our air, water, and soil. If we each plant one seed of an idea, imagine what we can do.”

Altifois Dolphin Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Giving to their community is not new for Ray and Leander Dolphin and their daughter Maya.  

Ms. Dolphin, managing partner at Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, is Chair of Connecticut’s Judicial Selection Commission while also giving her time as a trustee of The Ethel Walker School and serving on the board of directors of CBIA.  Mr. Dolphin is a school administrator with the Manchester Board of Education, and previously spent decades as an educator in Washington, DC and Hartford.  Maya is a senior at The Ethel Walker School, a teaching volunteer with the Horizons Program at Ethel Walker, and serves as a mentor for a student at Grace Academy. 

The Dolphins established a donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation to support causes that matter to them, including education and arts education  in the Greater Hartford community. In the future, they plan to include their daughter in making grant recommendations. 

Christiansen Family Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Francine and Stephan Christiansen have been friends of the Foundation for more than 25 years. Francine chaired the board of the Catalyst Endowment Fund giving circle in addition to her work in nonprofit consulting. Stephan was a Catalyst member while working in insurance and finance. Both support Greater Hartford by volunteering, serving on boards, and giving to a range of nonprofit organizations. 

The idea of opening a fund with the Foundation had come up a number of times. “It seemed like a good way to involve our adult children in our giving,” said Francine. “Our attorney told us a donor-advised fund is an efficient way of managing our giving.”  

Attending a Foundation-hosted session on ethical wills in 2022 provided the impetus for the couple to move forward.  “We learned a lot by attending sessions at the Foundation across a range of topics such as housing, education, and urban blight, but we had never heard of the idea of an ethical will before. It made a lot of sense. By having our giving priorities in writing, our children would know what we would like done with our estate.” 

Finding out that an upcoming vacation involved getting on multiple small planes prompted Francine (and her dread of flying) to place a hurried phone call. “I meant to write an ethical will, but now there wasn’t time. I called my daughter and quickly told her where we wanted our gifts to go, just in case we didn’t return on one of those awful planes!  It might seem funny now, but the experience prompted us to think, and take action, when we got home. In the end, we had a wonderful vacation, and we have the basis of a donor-advised fund at the Foundation, with their team ready to help us manage and grow our charitable giving with our children. This was perhaps the final piece of our estate planning exercise, and we can rest secure that all our affairs are in order.  But I will still avoid small planes.” 

Connors Family Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Mark and Barbara Connors appreciate the importance of protecting our shared past while building for the future.  

The couple are long-time residents of Manchester, raising their two now adult sons and running a business in town. Today they spend most of their time outdoors and can often be found hiking and biking in the many parks in the area or kayaking on the shoreline.  

Many years ago, while volunteering at Case Mountain, they came to know a fellow nature lover who had just set up a fund at the Hartford Foundation in memory of her parents. “It seemed like a meaningful way to put money to good use,” said Mark, “so we tucked away the idea for when we had more time.”   

Now entering their “vintage years” as he called it, Mark and Barbara decided to follow their friend’s example and start their own donor advised fund. The Connors Family Trust was formed in 2023 and has awarded grants to the Connecticut Fireman’s Historical Society, Case Mountain Cabin Corporation, and Manchester Land Conservation Trust.  

It was on a recent visit to the Fireman’s Historical Society when Mark was inspired to lend his talents. “My family runs a flooring business, so when I saw the condition of their wood floors, I asked if I could help. Maybe it was only obvious to me, having been in that line of work for so many years, but a small grant from our fund is going to make a big difference in how other visitors experience the museum. It makes us both feel good to think that our fund is helping in small ways.”  

“We are working with our advisor to write up our plans for the fund,” concluded Mark. “We want our sons to have our instructions in writing, so that when the time comes, they will be able to continue what we started.” 

Marti Curtiss Memorial Fund 

Field of Interest Endowed Fund 

Marti Curtiss believed that gratitude is service in action, and so she became one of Glastonbury’s most active citizens.  

“If you look up the definition of a lady, you’d find Marti’s picture,” said neighbor and friend Hank Picard. “She was that special, with an incredible smile for everyone.”  

Marti moved from Pennsylvania to Connecticut with her first husband Richard in the 1960s, only for him to pass away at the age of 32, leaving her with four young daughters.  When she later married Warren Curtiss, her family moved to Glastonbury.  

In addition to a full-time career, Marti volunteered with many organizations, ranging from First Church of Christ to town fairs, parades, and concerts. Marti served on the Glastonbury Town Council for 14 years, Chamber of Commerce for 18 years, and the Republican Town Committee for 36 years.  

“Marti believed in campaigning by knocking doors, looking in someone’s eyes, and extending her hand,” continued Mr. Picard. “If she was going to ask for their vote, she wanted to make it up close and personal.”  She decided to pass along her seat when an eighth term would coincide with her eightieth birthday. “After fourteen years, she thought it was time to give someone else an opportunity to serve. She was caring even when she knew it was time for her to move on.” 

Warren and Hank were colleagues and friends at Pratt & Whitney, and soon their families became friends. The couples were friends for nearly forty years. So ten years ago, after both Marti and Hank lost their spouses, they became special friends. Together they traveled to visit family, attend college reunions, and take in musicals from Broadway to the Bushnell and the Goodspeed.  

Hank started the Marti Curtiss Memorial Fund to help support the many nonprofit organizations in Glastonbury. “Marti was known for her generosity to friends and strangers alike. She would reach into her pocket and give you her last dollar if you needed it. She had that much love in her for her neighbors and her town. I wanted to keep that love alive.” 


Scholarship Fund

The Slusarski family has been a part of Newington ever since John’s grandparents, John and Sophie, purchased their farm in 1929. Over the next nearly hundred years, several generations of Slusarski children attended Newington public schools.

“My father, wife, siblings and I, even my son, all attended school here in Newington,” said John Slusarski. “Over the years, our town has become much more diverse. We noticed that the student population reflected more diversity when we attended school events with our son. But Connecticut Department of Education District Reports show that the makeup of the teachers had not changed much at all.” John and Gail opened the Encouraging Diversity in Educators Scholarship Fund in 2023 to help recruit and retain teachers with more diverse backgrounds to the Greater Hartford area and especially for their hometown.

“My family has benefited from the value of the Newington public education system, and we wanted to help make that same quality education accessible to children for years to come, no matter their background.”

Earl E. Exum Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Earl and Tammy Exum shared three wonderful, eventful and meaningful decades together. They met by chance in Atlanta, where Tammy was relocating for graduate school, although they both lived in Charlotte at the time. Tammy recalls being intrigued with this handsome young man and accepted Earl’s dinner invitation. After she caught him tearing up during the   movie “Rudy“, she knew he was the one. 

They married soon after and came to Connecticut for her job at Otis Elevator in Farmington. Earl landed a job at Pratt & Whitney and became an Aerospace Executive during his career, which spanned for over 25 years. Other than a two-year stint in Texas, the Exums spent their entire 28-year marriage in Greater Hartford. In the fall of 2023, Earl died unexpectedly, having suffered a heart attack from an undetected blockage.    

Husband, father, brother, son, business leader, mentor, and vocal community activist; those titles are all synonymous with Earl Exum. During his time in our community, Earl was deeply involved with organizations whose missions aligned with his passions: education, faith and celebrating the richness of Black history in America. He served as the Moderator at Asylum Hill Congregational Church, was President of the West Hartford African-American Social & Cultural Organization (WHAASCO), and served on the board of the Urban League of Greater Hartford.  

Earl was instrumental in bringing the much-celebrated Tuskegee Airmen exhibit to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. He was a driving force in the Hartford Foundation’s Black Giving Circle and its decision to fund a memorial honoring Lemuel Haynes, a West Hartford native who was the first Black man in the U.S. ordained as a minister. Earl led an effort to establish a memorial plaque and bench in West Hartford Center in Haynes’s honor. 

Tammy says Earl had many gifts (although a knack for yard work was not one), but his ability to bring people together may have been his greatest.  

“He just cared deeply, and demonstrated to us the ideal of what we could be”, says Tammy. “He was always willing to use his voice, and he realized that if everybody just leans in a little bit, we can make an impact.” 

Tammy says the fund at the Foundation is Earl’s legacy of service, keeping keep him alive and present to others in the community. The fund will support organizations that focus on heart health, mental health, particularly in black and other diverse communities, mentoring for underrepresented communities and education about Black history. Tammy says their three sons, Evan, Kyle and Jonathan, will have a voice in how the dollars are invested in the community to honor their father’s memory.  

Gehris Family Fund 

Donor Advised Endowed Fund 

What do you get when a family of eight sits around a table and brainstorms how to continue to Touch a Life and Make a Difference?  The Gehris Family Fund  

After 30 years with The Travelers Insurance Company, Peter founded Travel Insured International (TII). His son Jonathan and his daughter-in-law Tina became owners with Peter.  The business prided itself on their business principles.   

“One of the principles of the business was ‘Touch a life and make a difference,’” said Tina. “That principle was developed through Team TII, our community outreach program. When we gave a donation to a cancer society, we walked alongside those who had been treated for cancer. When we made blankets for veterans, we put the blankets into their hands. Writing checks is important, but living a life of service was—and is—most important to our family.” 

When Betty received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, the family sought a way to leave a lasting legacy.  

“Our parents gave to a number of causes over the years,” explained Jonathan. “Wounded Warriors, American Red Cross, and Habit for Humanity were often on their list. My mother co-founded the Down to Earth Garden Club in South Windsor 50 years ago, and ensuring it survived was important to her. We needed a way to continue to support organizations that were important to our parents, to our former business, and to individual members of our family while making a lasting impact for generations to come. A donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation was the right answer for us.” 

When Betty died March 2, 2024, just five days after Peter, they had been married for 60 years. “It has been a rough year for us,” Jon continued. “We want this fund to be a not only a celebration of their lives but a way to continue what the Gehris family values in Touching a Life and Making a Difference.  We look forward to years of charitable giving not only in honor of Peter and Betty but in support of the generation of the Gehris here and to come.”   

The Graymore Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Emily Moore and Gerald Graham are committed to making a difference in their home state of Connecticut. Social change takes money, but it also requires time and energy. So, in addition to giving financial support, they wanted to connect with local groups doing work that matters to them: environmentalism and public health.  

With a degree in forestry and a prior career in management and analytics, Gerald donates his time to managing an American Chestnut orchard to help restore the iconic tree to the wild. Still, he wanted to extend the impact of his giving.  

“As an entrepreneur, I am good at getting stuff done,” said Emily. “I wanted to help smaller organizations move forward. The team at the Hartford Foundation listened to us and connected us to nonprofits with missions that align with our vision, organizations that we would not have known otherwise.”   

Emily and Gerald started The Graymore Fund to support causes that matter to them, today and in the future. “We’ve been able to get beyond our small circle and broaden our perspective. Seeing the work that is going on and being a part of it, it restores your faith.”   

Alan Mattamana and shiji isaac fund

Donor Advised Fund 

Shiji Isaac and Alan Mattamana moved to West Hartford more than 15 years ago and believe in giving back to the community that they now call home.   

Dr. Isaac is a pediatrician in Newington, specializing in care for children from newborns to adolescents. She serves on the board of the West Hartford YMCA. Mr. Mattamana is a Managing Partner at Fairview Capital in West Hartford. He serves on the boards of the Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority (CHEFA) and the Hartford Foundation. Previously, he served on the board of the Greater Hartford YMCA and the Hartford Stage Theatre Company. 

In addition to raising their two children, they are passionate about innovation in education and healthcare, geopolitical history, and traveling to unexpected places around the world.  

Together they established a donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation to support causes that matter to them, including equitable access to high quality education and healthcare.  

The OAHStrides Fund (Orthopedic Associates of Hartford Philanthropic Initiatives Fund) 

Donor Advised Fund 

OAHSTRIDES is the non-profit, philanthropic arm of Orthopedic Associates of Hartford. The team works with under-resourced populations in the Greater Hartford Community to provide the support needed to build essential life skills and live healthier lifestyles. Their Mission is to improve physical, emotional, and mental health with an emphasis on movement and mobility.  

The team opened a donor advised fund at the Foundation to administer its fundraising and grantmaking work.  

“Since our establishment, our commitment has been unwavering: to create positive change in the lives of those most in need,” said Board Chair Kristina Bontempo. “In our inaugural grantmaking cycle, we focused on providing youth sports equipment and uniforms to underserved groups in Hartford County. Our ‘Make Your Move’ campaign emphasizes the importance of teamwork in social development. Being part of a team not only fosters social skills, such as collaboration and following instructions from coaches and mentors but also nurtures emotional resilience by teaching youth how to navigate victories, conflicts, and defeats. Moreover, participation in team sports promotes physical health, ensuring that young individuals maintain strong bones and bodies.” 

The fund’s 2023 Grantees were Riverfront Recapture, CT Children’s Inpatient Mental Health/Psych Unit, Capitol Squash, and Summit Adaptive Sports. 

“We are excited about where we’ll go in 2024 and beyond.”  

Sherlock-White Family Fund

Donor Advised Fund

Both Attorney Sandra Sherlock-White and Dr. Peter White are accomplished in their professional lives while finding ways to give to their community, having lived their lives as natives of Connecticut.

Sandra is an attorney practicing in elder law in West Hartford while speaking, advocating, and teaching as adjunct professor at UConn School of Law. Peter is a cardiologist specializing in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular disease.

The couple chose to open a donor advised fund at the Hartford Foundation as a way to coordinate their giving. In the future, they plan to include their sons, Dr. Evan White, a medical resident at UMass Medical Center, and Attorney Trevor Sherlock White, an Assistant Attorney General at the State of Connecticut, in the process of recommending grants.  The Sherlock White family is committed to issues of social justice, equity and inclusiveness, education and the environment.  Sandra, Peter, Evan and Trevor have used these ideals as guideposts in their lives and careers.

“It’s a small thing we can do today to give back to our community tomorrow and for years to come.”

Darryl E. Thames, Sr. Public Service Scholarship Fund 

General Scholarship Endowed Fund 

Darryl Earl Thames, Sr. was a life-long community servant and had an extensive career in public service working for Danbury Public Schools, the Urban League of Greater Hartford, the City of Hartford, and Camp Courant, to name a few. He was born and raised in Hartford, graduating from Weaver High School and Howard University. As a resident of Manchester for 31 years, Darryl was a “trailblazer” serving as the town’s first Black Board of Education chairman and its first Black Town Clerk.  

He volunteered generously, including with the Manchester Board of Education, the Manchester Scholarship Foundation, and as a co-chair of the Hartford Foundation’s Black Giving Circle Fund. Additionally, Darryl pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American Men, where he remained active with the Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter in Hartford, until his passing.  

Darryl was a loving husband to his high school sweetheart Geralyn R. Thames for thirty years. He was also a proud father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. 

When he passed away suddenly in July 2023, his family chose to start the Darryl E. Thames, Sr. Public Service Scholarship Fund to continue his commitment to supporting the community that he loved. 

Walker Community Fund

Donor Advised Fund

Kate Emery is a native of Farmington, a businesswoman, artist, and advocate. When she converted her business to a perpetual purpose trust, she opened the Walker Community Fund to honor her commitment and distribute profits to the community. Read more about her unique approach in our upcoming 2023 annual report. 

Women’s Support Fund 

Donor Advised Fund 

Gretchen VanHoosier and Gail Champlin had successful careers in Hartford area non-profit organizations where they were committed to working with programs that help women reach their full potential. When re-writing their wills, they made the decision to work with the Hartford Foundation to establish the Women’s Support Fund where their donations and remaining assets could be used to continue their life-long commitments to helping women. 

After Gretchen’s death in February 2023, her family and friends generously contributed to the Fund in her memory; Gail will continue to contribute to the Fund each year.  

Gretchen served as the communications director for the Hartford Regional YWCA for ten years before starting her own communications and graphic design firm. Gretchen expressed her creativity in many ways, creating her own line of note cards with original photography and haiku-like poetry, and publishing her memoir in 2004. Gail also worked for the Hartford Regional YWCA, was the executive director of the Career Counseling Center (under the auspices of the University of Hartford) and taught social work at the University of Saint Joseph and UConn School of Social Work. 

Young Edutainment Fund

Donor Advised Fund

Joe Young is a Greater Hartford native, an artist, and an educator who understands the importance of providing quality opportunities to all students, no matter where they live. Read more in our upcoming 2023 annual report about his decision to open the Young Edutainment Fund.