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United Way Blog

Philanthropy as a Family Tradition

For many families, traditions come in the form of backyard ball games and dinnertime routines. For the Sullivan family, philanthropy and “voluntarism”—as it was then called—served as their household habits. This tradition started in the 1950s with Indiana residents, Frank and Colette Sullivan, and has since been strengthened by their children: Frank, Mary, Anne and Bob.

A well-respected insurance salesman known for his corporate engagement, Frank used his sales skills throughout his volunteering endeavors. He served as campaign chair in 1958 and board chair from 1961-63 for United Way of St. Joseph County. In this role, Frank made a campaign call to Studebaker, the biggest manufacturer in South Bend at the time. He convinced the company’s CEO to continue supporting United Way—even as they were closing their factory. As a result, Studebaker gave its largest corporate gift ever. It was a testament not only to Frank’s passion for United Way, but his commitment to ensuring laid-off workers were given access to the services they needed.

“When my dad started his United Way career, someone recruited him and it took,” said Mary. “Ever since, we have been committed to helping one another as a family, supporting people in need and giving back to the community. As my dad liked to say, ‘We can accomplish anything if you don’t care who gets the credit.’”

Read more about the Sullivans’ United Way journey.

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