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Mon, Dec. 09

Joy of Giving luncheon honors Lees as top Prescott philanthropists

Jim and Linda Lee, The Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County Joy of Giving Philanthropist of the Year award recipients. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Jim and Linda Lee, The Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County Joy of Giving Philanthropist of the Year award recipients. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Jim and Linda Lee’s passion for the arts, residential and commercial real estate, education, health and the sciences prompted them to enrich their beloved Prescott with their time, talents and treasure.

The couple, who grew up not far from one another in Texas but didn’t meet until both were traveling in Russia years ago, have called Prescott home for the last four decades. In those years, the Lees have proved loyal civic leaders eager to donate to everything from the Prescott POPS Symphony to building a downtown skateboard park and purchasing musical instruments for Prescott students.

One of their flagship projects is the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium in the STEM Education Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University that opened to visitors from all over the world in 2017.

On Friday, Aug. 9, the Lees were honored by the Arizona Community Foundation as the nonprofit organization’s Philanthropists of the Year at its annual Joy of Giving luncheon at the Prescott Resort.

In the crowded ballroom full of almost 400 business, political and nonprofit leaders, the Lees were applauded for their ongoing commitment to the welfare of the city, a place that when they came was home to about 15,000 people. Prescott now is about triple that size — and the Lees have helped with the growth through their various residential and commercial ventures beginning with the Ponderosa Plaza and moving into such projects as the Gateway Mall, the Ranch at Prescott and Touchmark at the Ranch, to name a few.

“These are two people who are so special,” declared Mike Fann, the 2018 foundation Philanthropist of the Year as part of the annual award presentation. “There are very few things [in Prescott] that have not been touched by the Lees.”

In a letter, Prescott Chorale Director Dennis Houser described the Lees as people who have a “lifelong love to give.”

The foundation was all about that very theme – to love giving in the place you call home.

As part of the program, the foundation spotlighted five nonprofit organizations that were awarded community grants and were eligible for additional grant dollars from those attending the luncheon. The selected agencies and programs are: the Girl Scouts — Arizona Cactus-Pine Council with funds to offer financial aid for girls who want to attend summer camp in Yavapai County; Manzanita Outreach in Verde Valley to assist with its new mobile, refrigerated food truck that delivers foods to communities throughout the region; MatForce, the Yavapai County substance abuse prevention coalition agency’s new program called “Trauma Lens Care” intended to assist various agencies including schools and law enforcement on how to view the impact of trauma on their clientele; Prescott Area Shelter Services (PASS) case management and advocacy program that works with homeless women and children to get them resettled in their communities; the Verde Valley Cyclist Coalition that provides bicycle clubs and equipment to low-income children.

Each table of 10 guests was invited to play what was called “Cards for Humanity.” Each guest selected a card representing one of the five agencies, with the majority determining who would win the $300 table grant.” The money would then be added to the agency’s community grant, with individual donors also able to select an agency to support.

PASS was the top table grant recipient, collecting $6,900. PASS, too, received a $7,500 foundation grant and an additional $11,360 from individual donors. The other agencies received table grants that ranged from $300 to 1,800. A total of $26,035 was distributed to those five agencies.

Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County Regional Director Carol Chamberlain said the organization this year is giving out about half a million dollars in community grants to 70 organizations throughout the county. A group of some 50 civic leaders review those grant applications prior to making their decisions, she said.

This year, the foundation was able to give an additional $200,000 because of a gift from another benefactor.

“The fervor and passion continues to amaze us,” Chamberlain said of the small and large philanthropists that range from individual benefactors to local foundations.

One of the other awards given at the luncheon was for the Foundation of the Year that was awarded to the Ingebritson Family Foundation that provides financial support to assorted organizations, including the Smoki Museum and the Coalition for Compassion and Justice. The late Jack Ingebritson was an inspiration with his generosity to those agencies working for the most vulnerable. Foundation board members continually strive to make their grant decisions based on, “What would Jack do?” declared foundation leader Howard Kesselman.

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