At IECF, we’re privileged to serve as the link between hardworking nonprofits and generous donors in our united efforts to create a vibrant region. We’d like to introduce you to George and Vici Nagel, long-time friends of the Foundation and valued partners. Their story embodies both sides of our work: the Nagels have spent many years running a nonprofit in the IE, and because of their confidence in IECF, they’re also private donors through a testamentary gift to the Foundation.   

Vici and George on their wedding day

George and Vici met in 1992 at a country western dance class, where their instructor had everyone change partners often in order to “avoid getting stuck with someone with two left feet,” laughs George. Turns out George and Vici were well-matched both on and off the dance floor, and they were married in 1993.

The Nagels visited with their niece’s and nephew’s 2nd & 3rd-grade classes during trips to Pennsylvania, then sent them postcards to help with geography lessons.

At the time, George was a long-haul truck driver and Vici was working in the nonprofit sector in Orange County. They agreed that she would join him on the road, “But I wasn’t going to just sit and look out the window,” she says. Her Toro School of Truck Driving certificate is proudly hung next to her college diploma. George and Vici drove together on cross-country trips for nine years before Vici felt like she needed to get back to nonprofit work. “Trucking was interesting and rewarding. But I didn’t feel like I was using my talents and gifts. I wanted to give back to my community – specifically by helping nonprofits.”

In 2002, there were about 100 nonprofits in the high desert region. “They were mostly mom-and-pop operations.” says Vici, “People saw a need and jumped in to help, then found themselves trying to run a nonprofit business without support or expertise.” The region was also largely unknown among big funders; the Inland Empire as a whole was regarded as a pass-through on the way to Vegas or Palm Springs.

The Nagels were living in the High Desert (fun fact: Vici was Miss Barstow during her high school years!). Vici accepted a position as President/CEO with a fledgling nonprofit, High Desert Community Coalitions. Within a few months, she recalls, the organization had received a $50,000 grant from The California Endowment, “and we were on our way.”

That inaugural support from a high-profile funder like The California Endowment helped pave the way for other grants, enabling the organization to provide capacity-building resources and training to about 40 other high desert nonprofits. The grant was also the beginning of a long friendship with Jose A. Marquez, who was then The California Endowment’s Program Officer and is now IECF’s Director of Planned Giving.

George completed one more year of trucking before joining Vici as a part-time “executive assistant”, where he worked behind the scenes to support the organization’s mission to help nonprofits in the region thrive and succeed.

Under the Nagels’ leadership, High Desert Community Coalitions became Academy for Grassroots Organizations (AcademyGO). The organization’s budget grew from $12,000 to $400,000, serving more than 5000 nonprofit groups in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. AcademyGO works to strengthen community organizations and their leaders through training, networking and collaboration.

George and Vici at AcademyGO

George and Vici retired from AcademyGO in 2020. They’re still passionate about supporting their community through volunteerism at their church, and they’ve made plans for their work to continue well into the future through a testamentary gift to the Foundation.

“There are so many local causes that need help,” says Vici. “When people see news about tsunamis and such, big dollars end up going out of the communities. If you want to help, I really believe a primary place to donate money is to your Community Foundation because those dollars are going to be used to support your neighbors, your employees, your friends.”

When it came time for George and Vici to create their legacy plans, they trusted the Inland Empire Community Foundation to carry out their wishes. “Our confidence in IECF comes from knowing of their longevity, their leadership and staff, and their commitment to the local nonprofit community.”

“As Christians, we believe in giving back. There’s a scripture that talks about giving to people who are hungry or thirsty and caring for people who are sick or in prison. That resonates with us. Those are the personal causes we know will continue to be supported through our legacy gift to IECF.”

Jose Marquez, IECF’s Director of Planned Giving says, “One of the joys of my job is meeting great people like George and Vici. They put their hearts into their work and they make big things happen for the benefit of others.  I’m proud that IECF will have a role in carrying on that legacy.”

A planned gift is a lasting investment in our community. It’s our privilege to help generous donors like the Nagels make sure that the causes they care about will be supported for years to come. If you would like more information about establishing your own legacy through a planned gift, contact our Charitable Giving Team by completing the form below.

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