Interview with Laura Russo – Chair of the Board, Coral Gables Community Foundation

We recently sat down with Laura Russo, Chair of the Coral Gables Community Foundation Board of Directors, to discuss the Community Foundation’s response to the tragic building collapse in Surfside, our work surrounding COVID-19, in our local schools and non-profit organizations and our overall footprint in the community. Laura is in the second year of her two-year term. We are grateful for her dedicated service and the valuable perspective she brings to our organization.

Q: How did you first get involved with the Community Foundation?

A: I’ve lived in Coral Gables my entire life and have always admired the work of the Coral Gables Community Foundation. My Dad was also very active in the community and shared with me the importance of service as well as his love of the City Beautiful. We both attended the University of Miami and have had fulfilling careers as land use and zoning attorneys. In the 1990s, my father and I shared an office in the same building as the Community Foundation’s old office space. We got a first-hand look at the good work the Foundation did for the community.

Q: What have you learned about philanthropy from the Community Foundation?

A: I’ve learned a lot about the role Community Foundations play in making philanthropy easy. Setting up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at the Community Foundation is so simple and the team provides great service. I’m happy to share that I recently established a Fund that the Foundation will manage. I’m personally excited about this because my adult children and daughter-in-law will be involved in our family’s charitable giving and will carry this on with their children for generations.

Additionally, Donor Advised Funds help the Community Foundation build the asset base in the community. Its important to know that you aren’t restricted to supporting organizations in Miami-Dade, you can support organizations outside of our area. You also receive the tax benefits through affiliating with the Community Foundation, which is a 501c3 non-profit organization so any contributions to your fund are tax deductible. I would say a big light bulb moment for me was realizing that you don’t have to be uber wealthy to make a difference. The Community Foundation accepts gifts of all sizes and pools them together to amplify their impact.

Q: What have you learned about Coral Gables from your role as Chair:

A: Although Coral Gables is a beautiful and affluent community, we see more and more that it is not that way for all who live here, attend school here and work here. My involvement as Chair of the Community Foundation has helped me learn about important community issues facing our residents and public school children. It has also introduced us to donors who have provided the Foundation with co-funding opportunities such as our Community Response Fund and Restaurants Rally initiative where we awarded $100K in grants to locally owned restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and related closures. These grants, in addition to supporting local restaurants, in turn provided gift certificates to those who would enjoy a meal at a favorite Gables restaurant.

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