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The Giving Season

November 16, 2007 - Phyllis Sigal
My fortune at a Chinese restaurant last week claimed, "You will become a philanthropist some day." I laughed, but thought that maybe that means some day I'll have lots of money with which to be generous!

But, on Tuesday, at the "Focus on Philanthropy" event celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley, I learned that my days of philanthropy don't have to wait until I'm a millionaire.

I learned a lot of things about the CFOV, and also heard some things I already knew ... things about Zoe Metcalf, the foundation's immediate past executive director. We'll get to that in a minute.

What I learned was that the foundation "connects donors who care with causes that matter," which is one of the catch phrases of the CFOV.

I learned that you don't have to have a lot of money to be philanthropic. CFOV can show you how to help fund projects that spark your giving nature. As board member and immediate past president C.J. Kaiser noted, "(CFOV) allows those with modest means to become philanthropists." He called Wheeling, "the little community that could," borrowing from one of my favorite books from childhood, "The Little Engine That Could." (My tattered version still has a place of honor on my bookshelves.)

"Wheeling is blessed with citizens who see a need and try to fill it," Kaiser noted. The CFOV can solve problems and eliminate needs with the funds offered by those citizens. Donors "give through it, not to it" — another one of the catch phrases.

I learned that the CFOV has assets approaching $30 million and has distributed close to $10 million to community groups in the Ohio Valley over the past 35 years. Wow.

What I did hear that night that I already knew was how wonderful and accomplished Zoe Metcalf is.

She has resigned from her position to relocate with her family to the Cleveland area. Tuesday's event was her baby, and she wanted to see it through before leaving the area.

Said Kaiser, "Zoe has accomplished every goal and exceeded every one of our expectations," as the first full-time executive director of CFOV.

"I don't know how we were able to survive without the skills and the dedication of Zoe," Kaiser went on to say. "It's truly amazing what she has accomplished in two years," Kaiser said, as he presented her with a beautiful clock engraved with these words: "The quality of an individual is set by the standards they set for themselves."

I can surely say that Zoe sets standards for herself as high as the stars, and she certainly sets out to reach those stars in everything she does. The organizations she has touched during her years in Wheeling are many, from the Junior League to the Wheeling Symphony Viennese Winter Ball Committee to the YWCA, Harmony House, Crittenton Services Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley, Rotary and many, many more.

I know I will miss her giving nature and warm smile I've come to know and love.

Cleveland's gain is certainly Wheeling's loss.

I'll miss you, Zoe! We all will. We are all fortunate to have you in our lives.


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