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April 11, 2017

The McCarthy Family Foundation: Hands-on giving in San Diego

Twenty-eight years ago, Tim and Jane McCarthy sat down their two daughters, Kristin and Rachel, a college freshman and high school sophomore respectively at the time, and explained they were establishing a family foundation they would all be a part of. After adjourning the family meeting, each member took some time to pick an area they were most passionate about. Within a month, the foundation’s four program areas, which still guide the McCarthy Family Foundation’s grant making today, were chosen.

Rachel, the youngest member of the McCarthy family, was touched by an experience she had in first grade. She headed to school crying over something pretty simple — a bad hair day. But when she arrived on campus one of her young classmates said something that would stick with her forever. “It’s OK, my daddy hits me too,” he told her, forever ingraining the incredible reach and devastation of child abuse and defining a program area that focuses on child-based prevention and support for victims and families.

A high schooler growing up in the late 80’s, Kristin was especially concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS, realizing there were few people unaffected by the growing epidemic. Today, the McCarthy Foundation supports direct services through the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative as well as research.

Growing up near train tracks, Jane McCarthy was exposed to homelessness and philanthropy at a young age. Though she had five children of her own, Jane’s mother was always adamant about sharing food with the homeless population who gathered along the travel line whenever they could. A part of Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego, current foundation giving supports wrap-around services, acknowledging the importance of things like healthcare, transportation, education and job placement in ending homelessness.

In high school, Tim McCarthy’s life was changed by a summer science program, which he credits for what he’s been able to achieve and where he is today and defines the foundation’s final program area — K–12 science education. One of the programs funded in this area is the San Diego Workforce’s Partnership’s Life Sciences Summer Institute (LSSI). In 2016, the McCarthy Family Foundation awarded LSSI $10,000 in project support to connect high school students in San Diego County with paid summer life sciences internships.

Rachel, the McCarthy Foundation’s current president, says that although each family member picked an area of their own, they are all incredibly close to each. “They’re all rewarding. They’re all success stories. Even if one person gets something from it, it’s worth it,” she says. This sentiment is likely because, unlike most foundations, the McCarthy’s have remained fervently active in the foundation’s work. The Board of Directors is comprised of three family members and one non-family member, all of whom are part of the grants evaluation process, which includes the traditional research and review stages as well as personal site visits. “My favorite thing is my visits and getting out to meet everyone and see all the amazing programs in this great city,” McCarthy says.

McCarthy’s passion for community involvement is contagious as she personifies a person who believes that giving back is the most rewarding way to spend your time. “Anybody who has the chance to get out and be a part of San Diego’s philanthropic community should get out and do it,” she says. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean money. Volunteer your time, donate gently used goods or knit blankets for babies in the NICU — anything people can do to be a part of bringing our community together is a great thing. There is so much need and it’s incredibly personally rewarding to be a part of that. I always tell people to ‘take the leap’ because it’s always worth it.”

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