Donor Story: Harriet Deutsch

A MEMORIAL FUND FOR A BELOVED SON SPARKS HOPE FOR ITS COMMUNITY—AND ITS DONOR.

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY

Harriet Deutsch has a long  history of community-based  work. She was a fundraiser  and driving force behind the  Schoenbaum Center and a part  of the United Way, among other  endeavors. “I’ve always had a  passion for it,” she says. It’s a  passion driven and sustained  by a love of her state and  community, as well as her  own family. 

Deutsch grew up on the west  side of Charleston, and though  she spends the winter months in sunny Florida, she has and  always will consider Charleston  to be her home. She married  and brought three sons into the  world, raising them with similar  ideals towards their community.  However, it was the tragic loss  of her 29-year-old son Jerome  that spurred her into a new kind  of community support. 

After his passing, Deutsch and  her family were determined to  find a way to honor her son’s  memory in a manner befitting  his character as they began the  long journey of healing. “He  was a really special guy, very compassionate, and he loved people,” she reflects. “We felt that, by doing something in his memory  that would go to help other people, it would help  us, too.”

“We felt that, by doing something in his memory that would go to help other people, it would help us, too.”

Having spent quite a bit of time in the hospital  with their son, Deutsch and her husband saw  many other families in similar situations to theirs.  But instead of having a place nearby to rest and  recharge, those who came from out of town—and  out of state—often didn’t. The Deutschs came  up with the idea of establishing a fund with the  hospital for those families, but they were met with  many obstacles that quickly became discouraging.  So, when Stanley Loewenstein—the Foundation’s  first executive director in the early to mid 80s— approached them with an offer to help establish  a fund through The Greater Kanawha Valley  Foundation in honor of their son, they took  the chance.  

The Jerome H. Deutsch Memorial Fund was  established in 1984, directed towards people who  needed food, shelter, medical help, and other  assistance. For Deutsch, it’s all about seeing a  need and finding a solution to meet it. “It truly does  take a community these days. Families struggling  can’t do it themselves. It’s important to give back  to those who can’t. There are agencies out there  that are doing a wonderful job, but the more  they get, the more they can do, and the more they  can help.” 

And, ultimately, the fund has helped her, too.  “It’s helped us as much as I hope it helps the  community,” Deutsch admits. “It’s a good way for  me to honor my son and members of my family  that have passed—I can feel his spirit there. I feel  that, by being able to have this, it eases some of  that pain.” 

Despite the later loss of her husband and other  loved ones, she’s never had to walk her journey  of giving alone. “When I go to allocate my money,  I don’t just automatically do it,” she says. The  Jerome H. Deutsch Memorial Fund falls under  the category of a donor-advised fund, a great  option for those looking to support more than one  organization or program in a year. Its flexibility  and freedom gives donors the opportunity to be  more hands on with their giving, an approach that  Deutsch values. 

Deutsch gets to be directly involved in deciding  where the money from the fund goes, taking the  time to learn about community needs and new  organizations that might need a helping hand.  That’s where Foundation staff, like Chief Program  Officer Stephanie Hyre, comes in—Deutsch trusts  them to help guide her to where the needs are.  “Stephanie has been enormously helpful to me,”  she shares. “The needs change, and she shows me  how to change with them. I have confidence that  the Foundation is looking out for my best interest  as far as what direction I want to go and who I  want to help. You know it’s there in perpetuity, and  you’ll always be sure that your money is well used.  And I feel very fortunate that we are in a position  where we can help—that’s what life is all about!”

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