This story originally appeared in our 2015 Annual Report.

The Cuevas family moved from the San Gabriel Valley to Inland Southern California 27 years ago and soon became committed community members. Looking for the most effective use of their philanthropy, they contacted their attorney who directed them to The Community Foundation. The Cuevas family quickly shifted their view of how they could become involved.

We were always involved in tithing through church,” said Jim. “But getting involved in The Community Foundation opened my eyes to so many other needs in the community.”

“There was never a plan,” said Cecilia. “We kind of fell into it and into other opportunities. Everything was just a natural offshoot of the things we valued.”

This didn’t just involve philanthropy. Jim quickly found himself engaged in other community organizations, volunteering his time on boards and committees and overall becoming more civically engaged. He also found that the people he met were like-minded and he built strong friendships. “It was a gateway into networking just naturally,” said Jim. “There were folks I don’t think I would have met otherwise. And that was a great thing!”

When Jim was invited to be on the board of The Community Foundation in 2007, he said he was honored to be asked and immediately jumped at the opportunity. There was a lot to tackle and Jim jumped in whole-heartedly. During his two terms on the board, which end this December, the new strategic plan was developed and implemented.

“Back in 2008 we were trying to keep the lights on,” said Jim. “We refocused on our donor base and it is now growing. I see The Community Foundation being the strategic partner for nonprofit organizations, and the eyes and ears for larger national foundations like The James Irvine Foundation.”

Jim and Cecilia also made a point of getting their daughters involved in philanthropy, sharing their experiences and teaching them how to engage. “I think you’ve got to get your kids involved in what you do,” said Cecilia. “Things don’t just happen. You have to teach your children your values. I always wanted them to know the value of what we had.”

The Cuevas family also feels that their connection with Inland Southern California nonprofits and organizations greatly benefits their lives. They hope that more of the community will consider offering their time and engagement in any capacity they are able. “If you want your communities to be healthy, go to the school board, go sit in front of city council meeting, or go to the water board meetings,” said Jim. “Riverside is not going to get any better unless each and everyone one of us gets involved. Get to know your neighbors. Don’t be afraid of getting involved. If you jump in, then just like anything in life, you’ll find the time.”

Cecilia noted that this kind of engagement is personally rewarding as well. “We know some really generous people, and when you are doing something generous you attract more people of that nature. And these people make you want to become better.”

One of the biggest lessons the family feels they have taken away from working with The Community Foundation is the power of a single gift when leveraged through an endowment. They have been surprised to watch how the gifts of multiple donors can compound when managed well and find great satisfaction in knowing these funds, and possibly the projects and organizations they serve, will be there in perpetuity.

“You wouldn’t think that so little can go so far. And then you’re grateful that you fell into it,” said Cecilia. “We were lucky that we were able to do that. It’s different than just writing a one-time check.”

While Jim’s term with the board is over, he is planning to take a (hopefully short) break, and the family remains committed to philanthropy and volunteering. “When philanthropy is thriving that means a community is doing well,” he said. “It’s been an eye-opening ten years being on different committees of The Community Foundation and on its board. It’s been a great run.”

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