While many of you have heard of the Bollinger Foundation, most of the economic developers I know are unaware of the good work this group has done to support the families of our economic development, community development and public housing peers.
So, I thought it would be helpful to go straight to Jeff Finkle, one of the foundation’s founding members, to learn more about the history of the group, their mission and how others can help.
Q. Jeff, tell us about the namesake of the Bollinger Foundation and how you became involved.
I arrived at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1981 at the age of 27 when I was hired by Steve Bollinger. Steve had just been appointed as the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at HUD. Steve was a smart guy and graduate of Harvard.
In the summer of 1982, Steve, myself and others decided to hold a golf outing as a way of bringing individuals in the housing and community development profession together for networking and fun. It was so enjoyable that we decided to make it an annual event and by 1984 it had grown to 75 players. Unfortunately that year, 3 months after the 3rd outing, Steve died unexpectedly leaving behind his wife Lin and three young children, with a fourth on the way.
Over the 3+ years I worked for Steve as his Executive Assistant, I became very close to Steve and Lin. The trauma of Steve’s death was compounded by the financial worries Lin had to face. To support Lin, a fundraising dinner was held in Steve’s honor that raised $140,000 for Lin and the children. A few of us also began helping Lin with the lengthy filing of a workers compensation claim that, if approved, would provide her the ongoing financial support the family needed.
When the 1985 golf outing came around, we decided to dedicate the proceeds to support Lin, which we continued to do until just after the 1986 golf tournament when Lin’s workers compensation filing was approved. Over those two years we were able to raise another $13,000 for Lin.
Q. How did the golf tournament fundraising event turn into the Foundation it is today?
Once Lin’s worker’s compensation claim was approved and she was on sound financial footing, Lin and I began talking about how the annual golf outing should continue in Steve’s honor and provide funds to other spouses and families like hers who lost someone working in the field of economic, community and housing development. Lin ended up donating the $13,000 back to the Foundation and in 1988 we provided grants to two additional families who needed similar support.
Q. Tell us about what the Bollinger Foundation has become, the money it raises, and support it provides.
Like it began 30 years ago, the assistance we provide begins with one unfortunate circumstance, a death. It begins with the death of a person or their spouse who worked in the field of economic development, community development or public housing. Typically, the death has created a financial hardship for the family where the surviving spouse and children are unable to meet their current financial obligations due to the loss of family income.
Today, the Bollinger Foundation is a 501c(3) with a Board of Directors comprised of housing developers, real estate professionals, financial advisers and mortgage lenders. We continue today to raise most of the money through the annual golf tournament with donations and player participation fees. We have about 200 people that come out annually to play at the Andrews Air Force Base Golf Course and we net approximately $60,000 each year, which is almost unheard of for that type of fundraising event. Sponsorships and donations have helped considerably. To date, the Bollinger Foundation has given away over $898,000 in grants to families in need.
Q. I know we can go to the Bollinger website for more stories about how the Foundation has made a difference, but can you give our readers some examples?
As we learned after the event, in his desire to kill Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm agents located in the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVey parked his rental truck directly outside the HUD offices. The Foundation provided more than $25,000 to the families of HUD employees that were killed in the bombing. The victims' families used the funds for counseling and educational support.
In one instance the Foundation provide financial assistance to three young children whose only parent, an assistant manager of a multifamily housing project and a local block grant volunteer, was slain. Their grandmother used the money to pay for the costs of the two younger children to attend a special day care program for disabled children.
And then there was the instance when a single mother received funds to help pay for the counseling her children needed to deal with the death of their father, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who died of heart disease at the age of forty-five.
Many of the recipients have also used the funds to help defray the cost of a child’s college tuition, which was made more difficult with the lost family income resulting from the death of their parent.