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Tragedy Leads to Community Trust

Money from a 9/11 victim’s family provides impetus for charitable giving.

Last Wednesday night, the “who’s who” of Alexandria gathered to launch the Alexandria Community Trust, an organization to promote philanthropy by Alexandrians for Alexandria.

“ACT is a new community foundation that builds on the proud heritage of personal philanthropy in Alexandria,” said ACT chairman Don Beyer. “ACT is a bold approach of helping generous Alexandrians come together in a spirit of civic involvement to ensure that our history of neighbor helping neighbor continues in the most efficient and effective manner. We are proud to already have over $3.1 million in assets.”

That $3.1 million began with a conversation in T.C. Williams Principal John Porter’s office. Gene Steuerle was looking for a way to honor his wife Norma using money that the family received from the 9/11 Victim’s Fund. Norma was killed when the American Airlines flight on which she was traveling was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We wanted to honor Norma and we didn’t want the money for ourselves,” Steuerle said. “We wanted to do something good with it.”

The Steuerle family has been involved in Alexandria for some time. “Both Norma and Gene were very involved at T.C. when their daughters were here and have been very supportive of other causes,” Porter said. “I was glad to provide a place for that original meeting and to help think of other people who might help. It really has progressed rapidly from there.”

STEUERLE’S DAUGHTERS, Lynne and Kristin both attended last week’s launch. “ACT began with a family conversation,” Lynne said. “When it became clear that we were going to be receiving some money from the government and we didn’t need it for our personal lives, we would rather do something for the community that we had been so involved in for so many years. I also think that we wanted in some way to thank the community that had rallied around us after my mom died.

“Also, I think my mother would have loved this. She loved Alexandria. She lived here and worked here and most of her clients were from here in Northern Virginia. She volunteered her time here as well. She was head of The Titan Expo one year and volunteered at Blessed Sacrament for a number of years,” Lynne said.

Her sister Kristin agreed. “Although it’s kind of hard for me to be directly involved in the community trust, I will provide as much support as I can when Dad needs or wants it,” she said. “When Dad told us that we were getting money from the Victim’s Compensation Fund, we knew we didn’t need it. We all decided that we should do something for our own community. There were two areas we wanted to focus on: Alexandria because it meant so much to Mom and she had done so much for the people here and to focus on international programs that help people speak out against terrorism and to champion peace in ways that are nonmilitary. The combination is going to work really well, I think,” she said.

MAYOR William D. Euille is a member of ACT’s Board of Directors. “ACT is in no way competing with other charities,” he said. “It provides a vehicle for people to give in many different ways. I am considering having the William D. Euille Foundation be one of the funding components. Checks will still be written on the foundation’s checkbook but ACT will manage the funds for me. It will save a good deal of administrative work for me and others like me. It’s a terrific idea,” he said.