Famous Philanthropist’s Foundation has Major Impact on the Needy of the Area
By JOHN DOWNS, SR.
Fred Beazley’s name is not commonly known in Hampton Roads. Yet every year since 1948, the foundation that Beazley endowed has provided millions of dollars of grants, scholarships, and aid to some of the most deserving organizations and institutions in the area. The Chesapeake Care Free Clinic, Chesapeake Service Systems, Eastern Virginia Medical School, the Cancer Care Foundation of Tidewater, Lee’s Friends, the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia, the Union Mission, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling, Help and Emergency Response Center ( H.E.R.), and the Beazley Senior Center are but a few of the scores of needy charitable organizations that benefit from the generosity and foresight of Fred W. Beazley.
Beazley himself is the personification of a real life Horatio Alger “rags to riches” story. Born in the early 1900′s, he left school at the age of 15 needing $15 to purchase a horse drawn carriage. His dream was to deliver coal door to door. Through hard work and determination, he became a self-made millionaire and continued to prosper until the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. Despite hard times and tremendous financial loss, Beazley rebounded when he had the opportunity to purchase a failing ice company in Atlanta, Georgia. Under his the leadership, the company began to prosper, and today we know that company as Southern Ice, the largest company of its type in the United States.
He returned to the Tidewater area in 1948 as an extremely wealthy man. His many business associates considered Fred Beazley a frugal businessman yet his close friends and family knew that Beazley was extraordinarily generous with his fortune. That same year, he endowed the Beazley Foundation. Despite the fact that it is headquartered in Portsmouth, the Foundation knows no geographic lines when it comes to helping worthy causes.
Retired Chesapeake Judge Richard Bray has been President and CEO of the Beazley Foundation since he retired from the bench in 2002. “Mr. Beazley and his family have bequeathed a wonderful gift to the Hampton Roads area,” the former First Citizen of Chesapeake explains, “He never forgot the opportunity he missed as a youth when he dropped out of school. Education has always been the hallmark of the Beazley Foundation’s giving. Yearly, 50% or more of the Foundation’s philanthropy goes to education, from pre-kindergarten through graduate studies. We’re also very proud of the fact that the Beazley Foundation is the only foundation of its type in the area to my knowledge that supports and funds private education.”
The recent economic downturn in our country and the continuing sluggish economy has presented unusual challenges for the Beasley Foundation. “There’s no doubt our foundation took a major hit when the economy broke down,” Judge Bray admits, “Fortunately we have some of the finest and most capable fund managers and advisers helping us weather the storm. I’m happy to say that the endowment is back on solid footing and improving to a point where we hope to able to go back to full funding in the near future.”
That’s good news for needy organizations like Children’s Harbor and ForKids, Inc. who receive a major portion of the annual budgets from the generosity of the Beazley Foundation. “We have an outstanding relationship with all of the organizations we support,” Judge Bray assures, “It makes the process so much easier for everyone concerned when so many of the administrators of these charitable organizations are trusted professionals who work very closely with us. There is definitely a feeling of mutual respect and confidence.”
Cathy Revell is the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Care Clinic. The Beazley Foundation is a long time supporter of this valuable Chesapeake resource that treats the medical and dental concerns of low income and indigent Chesapeake residents. She explains the Beazley Foundation’s impact: “The Beazley Foundation has been a consistent supporter of the work of Chesapeake Care for many years. Their funding has enabled us to obtain electronic health records, expand our dental facility, provide for new program development, and continue to provide access to basic medical and dental care for low income uninsured individuals in our community. We would not be able to sustain our services without support like this. It is gratifying to know that there is a local foundation that is committed to the health of our community and supportive of the many agencies that work to make things better in our area. We are so grateful for their ongoing support.”
Eight years after his family endowed the Beazley Foundation, Mr. Beazley formed a companion entity called the Foundation Boys Academy which operated a private secondary school for boys known as Frederick Military Academy. This school later morphed into Frederick College. In 1968, the entire college was gifted to the Commonwealth of Virginia to become part of the Community College System. The charter of the original Foundation Boys Academy was amended in 1986, and it eventually merged with the present day Beazley Foundation. Its original mission was expanded to include charitable, religious, and educational purposes.
On July 13, 2010, Beazley was honored by Gov. Bob McDonnell and a host of other dignitaries at the official dedication of the Fred W. Beazley campus of Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth. A bigger than life 8 ft. tall bronze statue of Beazley was unveiled at the college entrance. Noting the significance of the opening of the state of the art college bearing the name of its benefactor, Judge Bray said, “This is Mr. Beazley’s Day. He would be surprised and humbled by what has evolved from his dream.”
The Board of Trustees of the Beazley Foundation meets in February, April, July, and November each year to consider grant requests. Awards are made only to tax exempt organizations pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Organizations must be engaged in educational, charitable, or religious activities. Further information may be obtained by calling (757) 393-1605.