Harry and Dee Richardson of Santa Rosa are all about community and have a philanthropic spirit that was cultivated during their youth by family.
“My parents and grandparents set a great example for me, and I saw the pleasure they got from being actively involved in community efforts,” said Dee, who grew up in Massachusetts.
“We both grew up in families that were generous and community-minded. It was part of our genetics,” said Harry, pausing to smile. Originally from Kentucky, Harry met Dee at Columbia University in New York, where he attended medical school and Dee was in nursing school.
Harry and Dee eventually finished their medical training, married, had two children and explored medical practice opportunities in Santa Rosa. But the first day they arrived in the area, it was a sizzling July day in 1972 and the temperature soared to 114 degrees; they weren’t so certain this was the place for them. During a return visit the following spring, the weather cooperated and they had a change of heart.
“We came back in the spring and it was beautiful,” Harry recalled. At the time, Santa Rosa had a population of about 60,000 people, and they loved the small-town feel. The Richardsons moved to Santa Rosa in 1973 and Harry went into practice with Julius Jaffe, a pioneer in medical oncology in the area at the time. The family quickly settled into their new hometown, and when their children were school age, Dee began volunteering and then joined the board of directors at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County. There she came to know Jeannie Schulz (wife of the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz) and other founding leaders who were creating an exciting new organization — Community Foundation Sonoma County, which was established in 1983. Intrigued by the work Community Foundation was doing, Dee got involved and eventually served on the board from 1993 to 1998; Harry later served on the board from 2003 to 2009.
The mission of Community Foundation is to connect people, ideas and resources to benefit the people of Sonoma County. The organization is a perfect match for the Richardsons, who believe in building community.
“There is no community if you don’t get involved,” said Dee, who operates Whistlestop Antiques in the Historic Railroad Square with two partners.
Married 48 years, the Richardsons’ decades-long involvement with Community Foundation continues today through the Richardson Family Fund, which they established in 1996. In the spirit of passing the torch of charitable giving, the fund was set up to include their expanded family, which includes their daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Shawn Brumbaugh, and granddaughters Zoe and Katie Jo as well as their son, Pete, and his girlfriend, Laurel.
“Our children will be involved with the fund and will decide how it’s spent one day,” said Harry, who retired from his medical practice after 30 years. Their dream is that the fund will continue to grow and one day help support the causes they’re passionate about and improve the quality of life in Sonoma County.
The Community Foundation has assets of more than $150 million and is held in more than 450 charitable funds created by individuals, families, community groups and businesses. The organization is governed by a board of directors representing a cross-section of Sonoma County’s business, civic and philanthropic leaders. Since it was founded, the foundation has awarded $160 million in grants.