Doing what's best for kidsNov 26, 2015 01:20PM ● By J. Chambless
The annual 5K, which takes place on the first Saturday in August, is held in Newport and has evolved into one more the more popular 5K's in the area.
It’s a Friday morning in early November and the PureBread cafe in Greenville is crowded with a few retirees reading the newspaper, some artists enjoying a cup of coffee or tea before they head out to whatever the day will bring them, and some business-types who are getting some work done away from the office. Thomas J. Hanna is right at home here in the midst of this activity. Hanna is the chief operating officer of Harvey, Hanna & Associates, a third-generation business that ranks among Delaware's largest real estate development companies. Harvey, Hanna & Associates has a portfolio of more than three million square feet of space—everything from office parks to shopping centers to a spectacular luxury condominium project that is ongoing at Dewey Beach. Today, Hanna is talking about one of the things that he is most passionate about—the non-profit called The Delaware KIDS Fund that aims to help Delaware children in need.
Hanna and the team at Harvey Hanna & Associates created The Delaware KIDS Fund in 2008 as an in-house charitable organization. The “KIDS” in the name stands for Kids In Distressed Situations. The fund was designed to help at-risk children in Delaware who may face violence, abuse, family financial troubles, or other distressing situations. In the last few years, the focus has shifted primarily to the issue of childhood hunger in Delaware.
One of the biggest goals for The Delaware KIDS Fund is also one of its biggest challenges: How do you make people aware that so many children in the First State face hunger each and every day?
Hanna explained that you could ask every single person in PureBread how many Delaware children regularly go without food and not one would know that it’s as high as one in every 4.5 children. And this is a well-educated crowd.
“We’re not in some third world country,” Hanna said. “We’re in one of the wealthiest communities in the region.”
Hanna has now made it his purpose to use resources available to him to help at-risk youngsters.
“It's admirable what Tom is doing—and what he has done with this program,” said Ryan Kennedy, the director of marketing for Harvey, Hanna & Associates. “He's a successful entrepreneur paying it forward and helping to make our community a better place to live and work for many generations ahead.”
Giving back to the community is something that Hanna learned from his grandfather, uncle, and other family members.
“Philanthropy is important to my family,” Hanna explained.
His grandfather, E. Thomas Harvey Jr, exposed him to the Our Lady of Grace Orphanage near Newark. It was a learning experience to see the struggles that other children were facing.
“My grandfather showed me how little gestures, like the annual carnival and dressing up as Santa Claus during the holiday season for these children, could help,” he explained.
E. Thomas Harvey Jr. lived during the Great Depression and started his own trash-hauling business before he was old enough to graduate from high school. During that hard-scrabble time, he slowly built up the business month after month, year after year. By the 1970s, Hanna’s uncle, E. Thomas Harvey, III had graduated from The University of Delaware, and the company was propelled under his uncle’s leadership towards becoming the 19th largest solid waste company in the U.S. ultimately leading to the sale of the company in 1997. E. Thomas Harvey Jr always emphasized the need to give back, and Hanna’s uncle, E. Thomas Harvey III, the longtime president of Harvey, Hanna & Associates, accelerated the family’s efforts at giving back by quietly assisting as many as 50 or 60 underprivileged children attend college.
Through the years, the family and the company have combined to give back $1 million to organizations that benefit youngsters. Most of the family's giving has been focused on Delaware's communities. Hanna himself was born and raised in Wilmington. His dad worked for General Motors, and they moved to the Midwest for about five years before moving back to the First State to reestablish their roots.
“I consider myself a Delawarean through and through,” Hanna explained. “What’s core to our cause is helping our Delaware community.”
When Hanna graduated from the University of Delaware School of Business & Economics in 1996, he joined the family business in a management capacity, having grown up working for the family hauling business for most of his adolescence. By then, the company, under the guidance of E. Thomas Harvey III, had moved into commercial real estate development. In 1996, the company’ s portfolio included 30,000 square feet of total space. They now manage more than three million square feet of space.
Despite the demands that come with each workday, Hanna is on a mission to help children who don't have the advantages that some other children have. The cause is personal to him.
“If I had to choose the experiences in my life that furthered this commitment, it would be the threat of losing two of my own children due to unanticipated and potentially fatal health issues,” Hanna explained.
As two of his children spent time in area pediatric hospitals, the Hanna family witnessed several different instances where children in the area were living in unbearable situations. One child, for instance, was hospitalized in ICU next to Hanna’s son for several days without a single visitor to help comfort or care for the child. The child was apparently the victim of physical abuse.
There were other stories about families calling the HHA offices that had so little money that children didn't know where the next meal was coming from. Food insecurity is a major issue in Delaware, impacting more than 20 percent of children in Delaware.
Hanna started the Delaware KIDS Fund as a response to the needs that he saw in the community.
“Seeing my son, along with so many other children, confront challenges in area pediatric hospitals certainly launched an emotional journey for me. Developing The Delaware KIDS Fund was an opportunity to combine the philanthropic messages that I learned from my grandfather and uncle and channel our emotional energies toward a goal of helping children,” he explained. “Adults, generally speaking, have the ability to make decisions and live by those decisions. These kids can’t make life-altering decisions for themselves. It’s almost an obligation for us to do this.”
staff at Harvey, Hanna & Associates is fully committed to growing
The Delaware KIDS Fund. Hanna is quick to point out that the HHA
staff deserves the credit for the work that gets done.
“My name often gets attached to the effort, but the whole Harvey Hanna staff volunteers their time towards seeing that the Delaware KIDS Fund thrives,” Hanna explained. “There are a lot of people involved in this effort who don’t get enough credit. Ryan [Kennedy] is like the general manager or director of the charitable fund, and he runs 90 percent of the marketing and fund raising for The Delaware KIDS Fund. If you see what the staff does, it’s really quite remarkable. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting.”
Murray Dingwall, the chief financial officer for Harvey, Hanna & Associates, did all the work to file the application for the 501c3 non-profit status himself—a time-consuming task that probably would have cost tens of thousands of dollars if someone were hired to do it.
The Delaware KIDS Fund works closely with health and human service agencies, the Food Bank of Delaware, and area faith based food pantries to provide support to those who need it.
“There are a lot of food organizations that do a wonderful job,” Hanna explained. “But they can’t do it alone.”
Bill Lower, the HHA Environmental Director, helps coordinate targets of opportunity with civic leaders and elected officials. “Children cannot attain their potential without adequate nourishment,” Lower stated. While the staff at Harvey, Hanna & Associates wants to raise money and awareness for the cause, that’s not the limit to their involvement. Kennedy might be working on a project related to the commercial real estate development business when a call will come to The Delaware KIDS Fund from someone seeking help. It’s not unusual for Hanna or Kennedy to take a telephone call from a family facing an immediate crisis situation.
“We’ll get calls from single moms or grandmothers who are desperate for help,” Kennedy explained.
One recent illustration is a call for help that came in from a grandmother who took in her daughter’s three children as a result of the daughter’s drug problem. All of a sudden, the grandmother had three extra people to care for, certainly a daunting challenge.
“She lived on government assistance and was never anticipating taking care of those three kids,” Kennedy explained. “She needed money for food, school supplies and clothes. That’s a heart-wrenching story.”
The Delaware KIDS Fund was able to step in and take care of a few utility bills that the grandmother couldn’t pay.
Harvey, Hanna & Associates absorbs all the overhead for the Delaware KIDS Fund’s operations.
“It’s a one hundred percent volunteer organization,” Hanna explained. “Every dollar we raise goes directly to our partner organizations. We make every dollar count.”
One of the initiatives started six years ago to boost awareness about the issue of food insecurity was a 5K run/walk that now takes place each August to raise funding and awareness for The Delaware KIDS Fund.
Kennedy noted that food insecurity is a year-round issue, and the August event is timed specifically for when food pantries are running low on supplies.
“We hold the 5K in August when people are busy with summer and back to school needs,” Kennedy explained, “and yet too many children are struggling hard to get a consistent meal.”
That struggle, if the children don’t receive help, too often leads in the wrong direction. Children who don’t have enough food tend not to do well in school. Not doing well in school can lead them to get in trouble, maybe even turn to crime. Sounding like anything but the typical chief operating officer of a major business, Hanna explained: “The community works like a piece of fabric. If you have threads that are weak or frayed, the whole fabric of the community will fall apart.”
Kennedy said that he’s proud to work for a company that is willing to dedicate itself to a cause.
“I think it’s a great example that is being set,” he said. “Our bottom line is, it’s all about helping our community and the next generation.”
Being involved in this initiative makes Kennedy realize how important—and easy—it is to make a difference in the lives of children who need help.
“If you give a kid any type of confidence, it’s going to make a huge difference,” Kennedy said. “A meal can provide confidence. A hug can provide confidence. It doesn’t take a lot.”
Hanna said that The Delaware KIDS Fund is still in its infancy stage, and as such, it is still evolving. The HHA team and Kennedy like to think about some initiatives that they might be able to undertake in the future. Kennedy explained that a few years ago, they did something they called the 25 Days of Giving where they visited 25 youth-based non-profits over 25 days and gave each one a modest donation.
“To this day, it’s one of the most powerful things that we’ve done,” Kennedy explained.
He would like to replicate that idea and establish the Twelve Days of Giving where they would visit 12 different families who are struggling and offer some assistance.
“I’d also love to develop a mentoring program,” Kennedy explained.
The Delaware KIDS Fund has a presence in all three counties in the state, but Hanna would like to broaden that presence. In the near future, he would like to have a 5K event at the beach for that part of the state.
Another ongoing goal is to raise awareness about the needs of Delaware youngsters to the rest of the business community.
“We have a pretty wide reach in the business community,” Hanna explained. “There’s no shortage of need, and that’s what keeps us going. That’s what keeps us grounded, motivated, and inspired. I see great opportunities to grow The Delaware KIDS Fund. I see great things to come.”
The food organizations in Delaware, Hanna noted, can provide a meal to a child for about $1.
“You say to yourself, can we help? The answer is yes,” Hanna explained. “This is Delaware. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to have an impact. In Delaware, the smallest gesture can make the biggest impact. That motivates me. There is no explanation that I will accept for one out of every 4.5 children to not to know where their next meal is coming from. Maybe, over time, we bring that number down to one out of six, or maybe we move it to one out of every 10. But one in 4.5 is not acceptable.”
For more information about The Delaware KIDS Fund and how you can help, visit dekidsfund.org or email [email protected].
contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected].