A shared passion for social justice fuels this Denver couple's philanthropy
Bringing together their separate family traditions of philanthropy, Larned Waterman and Paul Mesard have woven together their own, unique tapestry of engaged generosity.
The couple, together for more than 30 years, place promoting a society that is fair and full of opportunity for all at the heart of their philanthropy.
"Getting involved in the community is the most important action you can take," Larned and Paul explain. "If someone asks you to help, you have both an obligation and an opportunity."
"Personal gratification comes from engaging, and learning, and making a difference."
Both men grew up in generous families who were engaged in the community. Larned, originally from Davenport, Iowa, learned from his grandparents and parents about giving and volunteering; although family members live all over the country, they continue to operate a private family foundation to support nonprofit initiatives in Davenport. "My father was generous with his time and his financial support," says Larned. "I learned from him to find my passion and get involved as a volunteer and then a donor."
Helping gay and lesbian families stay together and live safely was an early passion for him. "I was a divorced father, working to keep my family together, and I realized that there were many other people in my situation," he explains. His drive to help led him to support the Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition in the 1980s. Larned continues to support GLBTQ rights, including organizations like COLEGE and GLBTQ Community Center of Colorado.
The Mesard family, based in Colorado, also has a tradition of activism. "We grew up giving our time, talent, and testimony to social justice movements," recalls Paul. He also feels that Judaism informs his volunteer activities.
"Jewish culture promotes the idea and practice of service to the community," he explains. In addition to providing financial support to his charities of choice, Paul serves on nonprofit boards as part of his commitment.
The couple's giving patterns are broad and generous. Their strategy includes focusing on services for vulnerable people and supporting education. From early childhood programs to mentoring to college scholarships, education is a cornerstone of their approach.
"Helping students provides immediate gratification provides immediate gratification because you can see the results, the improvements," explains Larned. Education also provides long-term benefits to individuals and their families. "Education promotes economic success, and that's another reason to support," he notes.
Larned and Paul share charitable interests and support each other in individual causes. "It's a team, with mutual respect," explains Paul. From the ACLU to ASSET students at Metropolitan State University, Wonderbound dance company, and The Denver Foundation's Critical Needs Fund, the causes are varied, and the commitment is deep.
"We have shared values, and we want to make the world a better place," Larned says.
They also enjoy the people they've met along the way. "Whether it's coaching and mentoring students, volunteering on a board, or learning at an issue briefing or event, getting involved teaches us about our community and broadens our network," says Paul. "Personal gratification comes from engaging, learning, and making a difference."
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