Thomas Griffis started the Griffis Family Charitable Giving Fund, a donor advised fund, in December of 2018. Since then, the fund has awarded nearly $25,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations in Catawba and Davidson counties and beyond.
To mark the fund’s five-year anniversary, Griffis shared the inspiration behind the fund and his family history of philanthropy and commitment to community.
Tell us more about your family’s history and connection to North Carolina, and in southern Davidson County.
My father was truly a "country doctor" in Denton, NC. After leaving the Army in 1946 he built a small nine-bed clinic to serve residents of southern Davidson County. It was opened in 1948. Sadly, he died fourteen years later at age 55. His partner, Dr. Ken Gobel and then a husband-and-wife team of physicians, Doctors Florita and Felizardo Mangundayao, served until they were unable to because of age and poor health.
The clinic closed and was no longer serving the community. But then someone had an idea: turn the Griffis Clinic into a place where struggling people could come for food, clothing, counsel, help with heating and whatever else they needed.
The community rallied behind the idea and completely renovated the building. It is now the South Davidson Family Resource Center. There is a room in the building to honor Doctors Griffis and Gobel.
My father would be very pleased to know that his clinic, after all these years, is still receiving people who need care, some of whom he delivered and treated as babies. I am grateful we have the resources to support organizations that care for people in need, like the South Davidson Family Resource Center.
Tell us about your involvement with NCCF. What started you on the path to establishing this donor advised fund?
In 1976, at the outset of 35 years of pastoral ministry with the United Methodist Church, I vowed to set aside 10% of my income each month to support the church I was serving and community programs that care for "the least of these" in our midst. I have maintained that personal plan since.
Several years ago, I decided to place a significant amount of money with a plan through Wells Fargo. I used this money to make special gifts to organizations beyond the tithe, such as the South Davidson Family Resource Center.
When I was serving as president of the Hickory Choral Society, I learned that HCS had a fund with the North Carolina Community Foundation. I had heard of NCCF before and when I spoke with my Wells Fargo agent about changing programs, she, too, mentioned NCCF. I liked the low fee and the potential of growing the assets while making contributions to organizations that serve people. At the same time, Susan and I matched our NCCF contributions with contributions received by retirement income sources.
We invited our daughters and their spouses to make suggestions for grants to organizations they have served. Those included Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Mile High Youth Corps, Urban Servant Corps, Colorado Village Collaborative, and United Methodist on Relief for Ukraine. Their suggestions came in part from their work in the Peace Corps: my daughter Emma and her husband Alex were in Ukraine for 27 months, and my daughter Anna was in Mali.
What would you say to encourage other community members to get involved in philanthropy?
I feel grateful that I had a mother and father who cared for the residents of southern Davidson County and beyond. In my own simple way, I am trying to follow their spirit.
I would encourage people to embrace philanthropy, tell their stories about how they came to give their resources for the wellbeing of others, and become models of giving to their children, grandchildren, friends and others.