Giving from the heart

Donors have a personal connection with their causes

  •  | 
Print this page by Robert Powell
Article image


The philanthropy of Macon and Joan Brock reflects their passions — the visual arts, education and the environment. They have donated millions of dollars to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chrysler Museum of Art, Eastern Virginia Medical School and their alma maters.

The Virginia Beach couple, however, don’t simply write checks to nonprofit organizations. They become involved.  “When we do philanthropy, we want to know what’s going on with it,” Joan Brock says. “We want to know it’s financially well managed overall. That’s a trend we follow.”

Their giving and their involvement in their causes resulted in the couple being named the nation’s Outstanding Philanthropists in 2015 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

That kind of immersion in philanthropy is reflected in the stories and in the following pages of this edition of the Generous Virginians Project.

Virginia Business has been tracking donations made by individuals, corporations and foundations since 2010.

This year, in addition to the Brocks’ story, we look at connections between donors and recipients in two other examples. One is Sherry Sharp, the widow of CarMax co-founder Rick Sharp, and the other involves a large company, Smithfield Foods.

Sherry Sharp, a Richmond-area resident, has become a champion for Alzheimer’s research funding since her husband was stricken by an early-onset strain of the disease. He died at 67 in 2014.

Sherry launched the Rick Sharp Alzheimer’s Foundation, which last year raised half a million dollars for the Massachusetts-based Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. CAF has distributed $50 million since 2005 to more than 100 researchers, with $450,000 going to the University of Virginia.

Smithfield Foods is a big corporation, with annual revenue of $14 billion. Since 2013, it has been owned by a Chinese company, Shuang-hui International Holdings Ltd.

Nonetheless, Smithfield has not lost its hometown roots. The company has been based in the Town of Smithfield in Isle of Wight County since 1936.

The company has given $3 million to Smithfield High School.  The money will be used to establish a new Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) fieldhouse, a multiuse pavilion and a new “makerspace,” which will teach students manufacturing and engineering skills.

“We are looking to show the Isle of Wight and Smithfield communities that we are here to stay, and that they are an important part of Smithfield Foods,” says Dennis Treacy, president of the Smithfield Foundation.

In addition to these stories, the Generous Virginians Project includes a series of charts listing donations made or announced in 2016. The information was gathered in surveys of hundreds of businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations throughout Virginia.

The ‘epitome’ of philanthropy

Brocks’ support seen as gold standard for charitable causes
by Joan Tupponce


Focused on research

Sherry Sharp’s philanthropy is devoted to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s
by Veronica Garabelli


Helping build a future workforce

Smithfield Foods gives $3 million to its hometown high school
by Greg Kremer


In compiling lists of major donations, Virginia Business contacted more than 600 companies, foundations and nonprofit organizations. In addition, the magazine reviewed public information, such as news releases and financial reports. Virginia Business asked businesses and grant-making foundations to provide their top 15 donations of at least $25,000 during 2016.  The magazine likewise asked nonprofit organizations to identify the top 15 donations they had received last year. The charts below represent more extensive lists than those which appeared in our print issue.

showhide shortcuts