Well, the news is official: My mother, Carmen Castellano, has announced her retirement as President of the Castellano Family Foundation. I am thrilled and honored to say, I have been appointed the next President by the Board of Directors of the Foundation.
I write this message at my own kitchen table, reminiscing of when my mother and father sat at their own kitchen table for much of the past ten years, making all Foundation decisions together.
The Castellano Family Foundation was established in 2001. I will never forget that day – that morning more specifically – that the Foundation was founded. My parents called me at 6:00 a.m. that morning to share the unbelievable news that they were the big winners of the largest California lottery payout in history. We knew, without hesitation, their intention was to start a family foundation to support Latino organizations in arts and education. The family gathered around their kitchen table in San Jose the next day and we all agreed that their idea to invest in Latino arts and culture, education, and leadership development in Santa Clara County was a wonderful idea. As a family, we have been diligently striving toward the Foundation’s mission ever since.
My mom will tell you that the Foundation is still run like that. She’s always saying we have our Board meetings “at the kitchen table”. And we always do! Sometimes I want to suggest we move to the inviting couches in their living room but I think those couches might be too informal – in my family – the Foundation is serious business.
Both my mom and dad have worked so hard to see their dreams lived out through the Castellano Family Foundation. And they paved the way for all of us – me, my brother Armando and my sister Maria – to take over by having us serve as Trustees since 2012. At that point, my father stepped aside and became an Emeritus Trustee. Coming on board as a Trustee of the Castellano Family Foundation, I dug deeper into the operations and saw the strength of their grant-making and relationships with the grantees and with the broader community. I was especially impressed with how passionately the grantees feel about the Foundation and our mission.
This experience has given me an even greater appreciation for what my parents accomplished for the first 10 years of the Foundation. They made it happen with very minimal staffing support, very little technology … just really doing it from the heart and doing it on their own. And at their kitchen table.
Serving as a Trustee also opened my eyes to understanding what an important role the small grassroots Latino organizations in California do when meeting the needs of underserved individuals in the San Jose community.
Carrying out my parents’ core values through the Foundation and everything the Foundation supports will come naturally. Our commitment to the Latino community fuels our efforts to keep the Castellano Family Foundation strong and continue carrying out its purpose.
My mom works hard. Perhaps too hard. Relieving her of the responsibility of presiding over the Foundation is important for her health and well-being. She deserves a break. She went from being an executive secretary at San Jose City College to running the Foundation. She has never really stopped working. I am ecstatic to take over and yet it’s a comfort to know that if I ask her for a “kitchen table meeting”, she will be right there with a smile.
As I prepare to lead the Castellano Family Foundation, I remember one of the most valuable lessons my mom has taught me: philanthropy matters. Wise, calculated and consistent giving builds community organizations like those we support in Santa Clara County. The most telling example for me, was that my mom’s first response to winning the lottery – besides jumping up and down – was pulling out a pad of paper and listing all the people and organizations she and my father wanted to help. In addition to family, the first thing on her mind was the Latino community. I strive to always approach my Foundation leadership that way as well. First, to plan my giving with a grateful heart for all I have, and second, to talk with my family to ensure our core values remain the center of what we are doing and what we are about.
I also intend to carry out my parents’ legacy by promoting diversity in philanthropy. Mom and dad promoted diversity on the boards of nonprofits so that philanthropists can better understand and meet the needs of the Latino community. They also have promoted the importance of investing philanthropic resources in the Latino community. And they have certainly put their money where their mouth is! My mother is a consistent source of encouragement to Latinos to get involved in philanthropy in order to build communities and solidify futures.
I am very proud of my parents and how they made this Foundation what it is today. I am amazed at what they have accomplished, how they have continued their reputation for generosity in the community, how many grants they have funded, and how appreciative the community is of what it is they’ve done.
I am honored to carry on the Castellano family’s legacy of philanthropy.