Life was good to Lin and Ethel Mason, and the Norfolk restaurant owners found a way to return the favor – leaving a bequest that will forever benefit people in Hampton Roads with annual grants to an array of nonprofits. For more than 30 years Lin and Ethel owned Mason’s Seafood Restaurant in Norfolk -- a popular Granby Street eatery known for inventing Crab Norfolk.
Life was good to Lin and Ethel Mason, and the Norfolk restaurant owners found a way to return the favor – leaving a bequest that will forever benefit people in Hampton Roads through an unrestricted fund at their community foundation.
For more than 30 years Lin and Ethel owned Mason’s Seafood Restaurant in Norfolk -- a popular Granby Street eatery known for inventing Crab Norfolk.
Lin was frugal, rode the bus to work and invested in stocks. In 1979 he and Ethel closed their restaurant during its best business year. They enjoyed traveling, dancing the tango and entertaining friends in their home. After Ethel died in 1986 Lin worked with an attorney to create a permanent foundation fund that would start after his death. His attorney connected with the community foundation’s staff to craft the arrangement without ever revealing Lin’s identity.
Lin always said he was going to give most everything to charity, and that is exactly what he did. After his death in 2009 at age 97, his $2.2 million gift to the community came to the foundation letting the Masons live forever through their philanthropy.
The Masons’ unrestricted fund gives the foundation the flexibility to address community needs that Lin and Ethel couldn’t have imagined. Each year more than $100,000 in Mason grants to an array of nonprofits help them make Hampton Roads an even better place to live and work. Recent grants have helped expand the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science, renovate the Wells Theatre and helped the Elizabeth River Project expand its environmental programs for youth.
Margot Barnhardt fondly recalls the 30 years she lived in Hampton Roads. She grew up in Pittsburgh, lived in various cities and retired to North Carolina but partnered with the Hampton Roads Community Foundation to create four permanent, endowed funds to benefit the region she calls home.
"I like what you do and that you cover a broad area," says Margot, a retired nurse. "There is nothing to compare with that."
In 2004 Margot surprised the community foundation staff when she popped by to deliver a $10,000 check. After she did the same the following year, a conversation with staff members convinced her to start her own endowed fund. She did that in 2005 by donating enough to create the unrestricted E.C. Barnhardt III Memorial Fund in memory of her husband and the Virginia Dietrich Williams Fund for Women and Children, a field-of-interest fund that honors her friend from Norfolk.
In 2013 Margot started two more funds in memory of two of her children. The Diane Reilly Hartzog Memorial Scholarship Fund helps send to college students interested in library science or English -- fields Hartzog studied. The William Thomas Reilly III Fund is a field-of-interest fund that provides grants to environmental organizations her son would be pleased to support.
"I like sharing what I have with others," Margot says. "It's fun."
Trisha Rawls of Norfolk donates to the Community Fund for Arts and Culture to help a variety of nonprofits bring music, theater, art and dance to Hampton Roads. As chair of the Norfolk Arts Commission, Trisha is passionate about giving area citizens access to all kinds of arts and culture.
Trisha retired a few years ago as founding executive director of the Business Consortium for Arts Support, which provides annual operating support to 33 groups in South Hampton Roads. The Consortium benefits each year from Community Fund for Arts and Culture grants provided by donors like her who value the impact the arts have on area residents.
"If I can add to the arts a little each year through the Community Fund for Arts and Culture, then I feel really good," Trisha says.
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