August marks Black Philanthropy Month across the nation and to celebrate, we’re highlighting Elevate Foundation, a dynamic foundation formed between husband and wife team Constance and Claude Jones to, as they say,“empower and help young people live a richer, more equitable and peaceful life.”
Based in San Diego, they have raised money and scholarships for a variety of non profits including Girls Rising STEAM, Girls on the Run, Feeding San Diego, Face Foundation, Computers to Kids, Just in Time Foster Youth, Humble Designs and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
We caught up with the Jones recently to talk about their motivation behind giving.
TNJ.com: What was the inspiration behind launching Elevate Foundation?
Constance: My husband Claude and I are two people in love who really wanted to grow a family of our own. I have had fertility issues resulting in 5 miscarriages. In order to come out on the other side of heartbreak, we had to look far and wide for something that could help us make sense of the sadness.
As abundant as our society is in so many areas, there is still lacking all around us. During life’s challenges, we were fortunate to have people in our lives who provided opportunities and resources that made a difference for us.
Claude and I created Elevate Foundation simply because we have a passion to give back to our community. We are not a non profit, so our donations go to charitable non profits that are aligned with our values. Our mission is to rebuild communities through our acts of work and uplift and inspire others to do the same. Our focus is supporting the underserved youth of color and provide them with resources and opportunities.
TNJ.com: Who have you partnered with while on your mission to give back?
Constance: To date, we have partnered with Detour, Humble Designs, Girls Rising, Treobytes, Girls on The Run, Feeding San Diego, Salvation Army, North County Community Resource Group, and many more. The strength of our relationships with established non profits help us to connect with our ‘special families’–families struggling with basic needs. Recently, we donated school supplies and laptops to 20 girls at Detour, with our support children at Treobytes, a San Diego based technology hub learned how to code over the summer.
Everything we do impacts the entire family and their future. We consider ourselves to be the helping hand they need to get to the next step in life. We are all about impact: what is going to have the biggest impact in their lives?
TNJ.com: How did you develop your unique approach to giving back?
Claude: Giving to those in need was nothing new to us; we always paid our tithes at church, but didn’t exactly know where our money was being spent. We often felt like we were giving to a black box instead of choosing the causes we felt strongly about and wanted to support. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and create our own foundation to do just that. Four years later, we have given $80,000 to multiple organizations that we feel align with our goals– to rebuild, uplift and inspire.
TNJ.com: What about your work do you find most gratifying?
Claude: It’s one thing to be the recipient of benevolence, but we want others to join in and give back as well. There are so many benefits to giving including a sense of empowerment, pride and accomplishment. We set up volunteer events throughout the year and when someone we have helped shows up to support, they become “elevators” themselves, lifting others up; it’s amazing. This speaks to our need to inspire others. At Elevate Foundation, we want our giving to create a lasting imprint that inspires others to give of themselves in some form. When you share with joy, selflessness and love, the benefits are endless. Parties on both ends will forever be changed and, ultimately, be enriched for paying the love forward.
TNJ.com: What were you doing before the launch of Elevate?
Constance: We volunteered at our local Food Bank and supported community initiatives at the Salvation Army and Epilepsy Foundation. Now, we make it a requirement for each non profit we work with to offer us an opportunity to pitch in. We volunteer and experience the blessings of our donations being used for the purpose in which they were giving. We’ve done the same with Ronald McDonald House. We donated funds, gathered our volunteers, did meal prep, cooked, served and cleaned. We saw our funding at work and were part of the process.
TNJ.com: Any short to long term goals Elevate Foundation is working on?
Constance: We have a few more events happening in 2019 including working with Feed San Diego and Ronald McDonald House. I am also exploring synergies with Empty Cradle, an organization that supports women who have experienced pregnancy and/ or infant loss.
For the long term, our main goal is to continue to help others and increase the number of our volunteers; the more we have join us, the more people we can help. We will be focusing on recruiting future “elevators,” a term we use for our volunteer staff.
Additionally, I am stepping from behind the scenes to go out into the community more to discuss the power of giving. I think many folks think money is the only way to give. There are so many facets of giving–kindness, ideas, advice, skills, attention, hope, the list is much longer than money. Giving helps improve the lives of others and it affects our own life with amazing benefits including a sense of connection; it also helps to build professional networks.
(Black Philanthropy Month is a celebration of African-descent giving. Held annually in August, it was founded in 2011 by Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson and the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network.)