Giving as a Family Affair

Since they moved to Binghamton in 1997, Elysia and Tom Gudas have made the community their own. Elysia has volunteered for the PTAs at their two daughters' schools and at the family's church. Tom works as a radiologist at Wilson Hospital and also has sought out other ways to serve. Most recently he spent a year and a half as a mentor to a teen living at the Children's Home.

Elysia and Tom GudasAlong with lending a hand as volunteers, Elysia and Tom feel it's important to make financial contributions to good causes. It's a family tradition. "My mother was involved quite a bit with a community foundation in Elmira," Tom says. The Gudases already made regular donations to many organizations, but when they learned about the Community Foundation for South Central New York, it caught their attention.

They started donating to the CommuniFund, and last year Elysia joined the Community Foundation's board. She especially enjoys the chance to make site visits, traveling throughout the six-county region to see firsthand the many ways in which community organizations put Foundation grants to work.

To help pass along the tradition of giving, the Gudases involved their daughters in a pilot youth philanthropy project that the Community Foundation sponsored in 2007-08. It's important to make the concept of philanthropy tangible for kids, Elysia says. "How else are they going to know that it's not just a matter of doing things to be involved, that it's important to give?"

The Gudases also have taken their family's philanthropy in hand by creating a Donor Advised fund at the Community Foundation. The fund provides a convenient solution to an annual challenge, how to document the family's donations to a variety of nonprofits for tax purposes. Assembling the paperwork has never been easy. "Often, Tom would have to go running around town," chasing down acknowledgements from organizations that hadn't mailed them, Elysia says.

Now, the Gudases are building a central fund they can use to support an array of causes. "We'll probably do a mix, having the Community Foundation use the money where they think it best and supporting some projects and charities that we have a special interest in," Tom says. Instead of writing separate checks to each organization, they'll recommend grants from their Donor Advised fund. But at tax time, donation acknowledgements from the Community Foundation will cover their documentation needs.

One fund, but a host of good works. It's a simple way for the Gudas family to carry on the tradition of philanthropy.

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