From memorial to legacy: How the Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund is moving to its next phase

When Jamie Kirk Hahn was killed in 2013, North Carolina lost a passionate advocate who worked in support of others.

Her family and friends, devastated by her murder, sought ways to express their deep grief. Continuing Jamie’s efforts to address food insecurity and poverty and mentor young leaders seemed like the best way to honor her.

They set up a foundation, the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, which for several years focused on convening, connecting and developing the next generation of emerging leaders and solutions in the areas that Jamie was most passionate about.

Later, the foundation transitioned to become a donor advised fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation, where it has provided $144,000 in funding since 2018 to mostly Triangle-area nonprofits that seek to make a difference on the issues Jamie, a political strategist and fundraiser, cared about.

Now, the Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund is coming to a close, reflecting the evolution of the grieving process.

“A big realization for Jamie’s mom and I, was that we were not going to build an organization that lasts forever,” said Nation Hahn, Jamie’s husband. “We wanted this to be a catalyst for supporting organizations that we care about.”

After Jamie’s death, family and friends quickly galvanized to bring memorial efforts to fruition.
Hahn said they were always assessing their next steps, knowing that there would be multiple
iterations of the work to honor Jamie. 

“We talked at length about what we wanted to do,” Hahn said. “For Jamie, the work was never about her.”

Jamie Kirk Hahn
Jamie Kirk Hahn

The work of honoring Jamie continued with the Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund. Working with NCCF was seamless, Hahn said.

“NCCF was a wonderful partner in the process – in the accounting, helping us make an impact,
sharing options and opportunities,” he said. “We had a small fund, but we never felt unimportant
to NCCF. They treated us as if we had a $1 million fund.”

Three nonprofits have been the main beneficiaries of the grant funding: Hope Center at Pullen, Inter-faith Food Shuttle and Raleigh City Farm. Learn more about the work of these three nonprofits.

“We believed pretty deeply in the folks doing the work,” Hahn said. “… We’ve made a critical investment in three organizations that are really at a critical moment. That is the best tribute to her.”

That fits with Jamie’s approach to focus on others, rather than herself, said Debra Funderburk, Jamie’s mother. She said Hahn was instrumental in honoring Jamie in a way the fit her humble nature

“There are no words to explain how important it was to work alongside Nation to make so much happen in Jamie’s memory,” she said. “His dedication to keeping Jamie’s ideas, hopes and dreams alive has helped me to keep going.”

The fund honored Jamie’s legacy but also highlights how donors can best support nonprofits in their work.

“[Nation] holds Jamie’s passions close to his heart,” said Brittney Sherley, Director of Development and Communications at The Hope Center at Pullen. “What I’ve seen is that he has been so involved emotionally and monetarily. He’s very communicative and open to learning. We really want donors to be involved.”

But Hahn acknowledges that memorial efforts are hard to sustain. The emotion and urgency shift. People have lost other important people in their lives since Jamie’s death. His advice to others establishing memorial funds for loved ones is that they should consider the length of time they’ll devote to it and then consider the issues the person they loved focused on.

“I would be open about how long you want to maintain it and then think about the issues that resonated with that person,” Hahn said. “The needs will shift, so be flexible. Be open to evolving issues and it’s OK to be time-limited in your approach.”

Lisa Grele Barrie, the Executive Director of Raleigh City Farm, said the approach Jamie’s family and friends took to honoring her legacy has been impressive.

“Nonprofits, especially when founded in trauma, are hard to sustain,” she said. “They did that beautifully in a somewhat of a three-part lifecycle. It’s a great best practice in how to continue to create a legacy.”

As the fund closes, Hahn hopes people will consider giving to the nonprofits that the fund supported and the causes that Jamie held dear. However, what Jamie would want most is for people to take action in supporting the causes that are important to them.

“We will encourage people to commit themselves to take their own actions,” Hahn said. “They don’t need to pick a Jamie issue. We have an obligation to contribute to the betterment of society for everyone.”

Funderburk echoes that sentiment.

“I hope people realize the importance of doing for others and not being totally concerned with themselves. The good feelings received from helping those less fortunate are invaluable.”

Debra Funderburk, Jamie’s mother

Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund: Fighting food insecurity and supporting young people

The Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund devoted much of its funding to three organizations: Hope Center at Pullen, Inter-faith Food Shuttle and Raleigh City Farm. Learn more about the work of each organization below.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle

What they do: Recover and distribute food to our low-income neighbors in the Triangle. They also empower people with skills to meet their own food needs through education initiatives like culinary job training, low-impact gardening and cooking healthy on a budget

How the Jamie Kirk Hahn Fund provided support: The fund provided $21,000 in grants for a wide variety of initiatives. That support was especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the organization created its Gardens for Everyone agriculture education program, said Neely Monemi, Manager of Grants and Government Contracts for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

The program provides garden boxes and supplies to families and communities to grow their own produce in an effort to build healthy habits and provide a sustainable source of healthy produce. Gardens for Everyone works with the recipients for one full growing cycle, building their skills and confidence to grow their own food.