Good work of foundation and its benefactors enrich region

The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut continues to have an ever-larger impact on the quality of life in our region, today announcing it is sharing a $16 million gift with a neighboring foundation, bequeathed by two sisters whose devotion to nature will extend for generations.

Mary Janvrin, who died Sept. 29 at age 90 and her sister, Natalie Janvrin Wiggins, who died in 2010 at age 89, gifted $8 million each to the Eastern Connecticut foundation and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County. According to their wishes, the foundations will use the trust funds to generate donations for bird and animal welfare, and the preservation of the environment.

It is the second largest gift ever received by the CFECT, after the $10 million bequest from Peter Letz in 2014, also to benefit animal welfare and the environment. Last year the foundation used the Peter Grayson Letz Fund for Animals and the Environment to provide about $400,000 in grants for animal welfare and environmental projects in New London County, awarded to 22 nonprofit organizations.

Some may be tempted to question the priorities of the Old Lyme sisters, given the many human service needs. But ornithology and a general love for nature were passions they shared and that brought them closer. Mary’s obituary encouraged gifts to be sent to the American Bird Conservancy, while Natalie’s directed gifts to the National Audubon Society.

In providing the means to support programs that protect birds, wildlife and the environment, they provide a gift to us all.

Gifts of this nature can set off a virtuous cycle, as others fortunate enough to have amassed a fortune in life look to groups such as CFECT to share with the community. Unlike the Letz donation, which was specific to New London County, no such strings are attached to this latest gift. This means the foundation can support programs throughout its eastern Connecticut region. In 2010, CFECT expanded its footprint, once southeastern Connecticut only, to cover 42 towns in the eastern third of the state, stretching to the Massachusetts border.

Foundation President and CEO Maryam Elahi said there is also the potential for working with the other gift recipient, the Middlesex County Foundation, to jointly support large-scale projects.

The foundation’s assets have grown dramatically since Elahi’s appointment in 2013, from $48 million to almost $70 million today. That charitable growth helps make this region a great place to live. 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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