A Lasting Impact, A Legacy Partnership

Donor Profile Highlight: Gilbert and Marie Cleasby

He was a highly regarded ophthalmologist, she a master gardener. Together Gilbert W. Cleasby, M.D., and Marie Mendenhall Cleasby cared deeply about helping those in need, and left a legacy that is improving the lives of women and children and strengthening the community for us all.

The Cleasbys were long-time residents of San Francisco, world-travelers, and supporters of meaningful causes throughout their lives. When it came time to think about their legacy, the Cleasbys’ estate planning attorney, Mary White, encouraged them to name The San Francisco Foundation in their will to manage their legacy.

“I often recommend working with a community foundation like The San Francisco Foundation so that my clients save money and, as a result, the organizations they want to support receive larger gifts,” said Mary. “And the fees they pay help the community and themselves in the process – The San Francisco Foundation staff provided invaluable guidance and introductions to organizations that matched the Cleasbys’ interests.”

The Cleasbys selected 22 organizations to receive specific gifts, and dedicated the remainder to providing support and shelter to survivors of domestic violence and homeless women and children. They asked their longtime friend Cameo Jones to serve as an advisor on their estate and determine which organizations would receive the remaining funds.

After Dr. and Mrs. Cleasby passed away in 2011 and 2008, respectively, The San Francisco Foundation in partnership with Cameo set out to fulfill and honor their legacy – researching organizations, selecting projects, and making grants based on their passions and philanthropic goals.

“It is a great responsibility and honor to be asked by the Cleasbys to help fulfill their wishes,” Cameo said. “Working with the Foundation has made it painless. Jackie Anderson Downing, our donor relations officer, provided wonderful guidance and research, and also gave me the space to do my own due diligence. I especially appreciated Jackie’s relationships with the nonprofit executive directors to fine tune their proposals so we could help these organizations accomplish goals they had only dreamed of.”

After thoughtful conversations and several site visits to cornerstone organizations serving women and children in San Francisco, Cameo is selecting a handful of exceptional organizations to receive grants. Thanks to the Cleasbys’ legacy, several nonprofits are expanding their programs, improving their facilities, and ensuring that these advancements last for generations. Here are a few examples:

• One generous gift helped the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center (SFCAPC) jumpstart a fundraising campaign to build a new Child Advocacy Center in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Right now, SFCAPC reaches more than 15,000 people each year through its TALK Line Family Center, and provides 1,000 vital direct service visits to young children and families impacted by violence and trauma. With this grant from the Cleasbys, SFCAPC is building a garden at the new center to be named after Mrs. Cleasby, which will serve children healing from trauma. As well, a small endowed fund at the Foundation will ensure the garden will be cared for in perpetuity.

• La Casa de las Madres, California’s first and the nation’s second shelter dedicated to women and children escaping domestic violence, provides expert intervention and prevention services to 15,000 individuals each year, and reaches more than 50,000 community members annually through its education and outreach activities. La Casa will finally be able to complete much needed renovations at its emergency shelter, replacing doors and windows in serious disrepair and upgrading the kitchen where women and children fleeing domestic violence prepare meals. It will also take the momentous step of establishing an endowment to ensure its vital services continue for years to come.

• The Homeless Prenatal Program provides more than 3,000 poor and homeless families each year the ability to end childhood poverty, and its family resource center programs empower families, particularly mothers motivated by pregnancy and parenthood, to recognize their strengths and trust in their own capacity to transform their lives. Thanks to the Cleasbys’ legacy, Homeless Prenatal Program paid off half its mortgage, and engaged another donor to commit to paying off the remainder by next summer. By owning its own building, Homeless Prenatal Program will free up significant resources for programs designed to help parents deliver healthy babies and nurture children in stable homes.

• Compass Family Services, which helps more than 3,000 families each year escape the cycle of poverty and crisis through a variety of supportive services including shelter and childcare, utilized a portion of its gift as a matching challenge, and as a result set a new fundraising record at its annual event. It, too, will make improvements to its facilities and invest in its organization for long term stability.

Dr. and Mrs. Cleasby will be remembered for their compassion for the women and children of their beloved city of San Francisco. We are proud to be their partner in fulfilling their philanthropic vision.