The philanthropy of Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik is deep and highly personal. “I came from a family that didn’t have a lot of money, but I do know that both my parents gave in their own way. What I’ve learned is that giving money and time is even better than giving money alone. That way you can watch it make a difference, not only in the community as a whole, but with individuals,” Carol said.
In 2014 the couple offered Grand Rapids Community Foundation a matching gift of $100,000 to establish a fund to support the LGBT community in West Michigan. The fund’s initial focus is to help homeless and runaway LGBT youth. The match was easily met and exceeded in several months and continues to grow. Their philanthropy centers on social justice issues and institutions where they’re connected. “We’re inclined to be involved with causes that mean something to us personally. For me, it’s Cranbrook and Grand Valley State University, and LGBT issues influence both our lives,” Shelley said. “Social justice and equality have always mattered to me—from growing up in Detroit to realizing I was a lesbian. I’ve never believed that people should be treated differently based upon race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or for any other inherent part of a person’s makeup, and I want help to change that,” Carol said.
The couple has had a Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation since 2003, but were donors for several years prior. “We looked at creating our own foundation, but decided that utilizing the skills and capabilities of the Community Foundation would give us better results than creating a private foundation would. The Community Foundation has a huge amount of credibility in this community, and we are convinced that donors’ comfort level with giving to the Community Foundation is part of the initial success of Our LGBT Fund,” Shelley said.