“WE KNEW THAT
What’s Different about the Heal Fund
Brennan Gould grew up on a pig farm in eastern Iowa. She earned a philosophy degree and later worked for a congressman. In August 2017, she had lived in Charlottesville for nine years. Seven of those had been with the Community Foundation, as director of programs.
Now, after the establishment of the Heal Charlottesville Fund and the exit of the Foundation’s president, Gould faced the responsibility of making this urgent and ambitious relief effort somehow work.
“We knew that the whole community was hurting,” Gould said, “and we wanted to make sure that people had access to trauma services and other types of support.” The violence of that day was awful in itself, she said. But it also triggered deep trauma that required a response from mental-health professionals.
If the work of the Heal Charlottesville Fund had stopped there, it still would have been critically important. Jeanne “Star” Peterson, whose back was broken in the car attack on August 12, hasn’t been able to work in the two and a half years since. She called the Fund a “lifesaver.”
“They’ve paid my electric bill, my water bill, my phone bill, my rent,” she said. She received money for groceries. “I honestly have no clue what I would have done if the Heal Fund hadn’t been there. They’ve given me the time and space to heal.”
Gould and the Community Foundation wanted the Heal Fund to accomplish more than that, however. Through a special round of grants, in which forty-two projects were funded, Gould hoped to elevate voices in the community and support projects that would, as she put it, “address the underlying history and deeper trauma of that type of violence and intimidation and racial tension that we saw that weekend.”
But how to find those voices?
Since its start in 1967, the Community Foundation has emphasized the interconnectedness of everyone in the community. Its founders believed that in order to thrive together, we have to value and invest in one another. These men and women, at the beginning, hailed from Charlottesville’s elite. All of them were bankers or affiliated with banks, and their philanthropy followed a top-down approach.
With the Heal Fund, Gould was suggesting something different: finding ways to open the process up to people who had never applied for a grant before. Or finding ways to direct funds to individuals or for-profit businesses—two avenues normally closed to community foundations.