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Women Bisnow
January 24, 2008

Community Advocate


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
The Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

When it's donkey and elephant season, or we're muttering because Constitution Avenue is closed due to another protest, we sometimes forget that Washington is an unusual place to live. Terri Lee Freeman always remembers. "Recently my daughter, a freshman at Howard, sat in awe on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with her roommate, amazed that they could be in the very spot where Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech."


Freeman, in red, at a youth banquet sponsored by the United Missionary Baptist Convention of Maryland where her daughter Camille was honored.  Also on hand, from left, other  daughters Corryn and Carmen, and R. Renae Johnson, with Freeman's mother, Barbara Chaney, standing.


President of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region since 1996, Terri spends her days reminding the greater Washington region that it's not just two separate states and a district, but a community. "It is hard for people to think regionally. People think more easily about their little piece or the whole country," says Freeman.

"I don't know if I had heard the term philanthropy much before I started doing it. My community was my family, the church, and taking care of elders and those fallen on hard times. My mother had a dance school in Chicago. She never made any money, because she let any child in, even without paying." Community-minded from an early age, Freeman admits that when she was young, she wanted to be none other than the hat-throwing Mary Tyler Moore.


It takes a village. Or in this case at least nine people. Terri, center, flanked by Foundation staff.


"I thought it would be great to be a powerful single woman working behind the scenes in broadcasting. I never wanted to be in the limelight." She met her husband, Reverend Bowyer Freeman, in college, studied communications at the University of Dayton and went on to earn a master's from Howard.  In 1981 she joined Freddie Mac. Moving up the ranks, she began her career in philanthropy in the late 80's, becoming first executive director of the Freddie Mac Foundation.

When Freeman joined the Community Foundation in '96, she had no background in fundraising or donor relations but a passion for the area and young people and families. Though the foundation was incorporated in 1973, it got a fresh start in '92 when the late Bob Linowes became chairman. "He breathed new air into it," says Freeman. "We had around $10 million in assets in '92. By '96 we had $52 million. He said he would step down when they reached $50 million and he did. He was an incredible mentor to me."

Under Freeman, the Foundation's assets have grown from $52 million to around $350 million. The largest local grant maker in the region, it gets people together and acts as a catalyst to facilitate giving. "The Community Foundation is able to invest in community because people invest in the foundation. Our main goal is to help as many people as possible who are low-income and disenfranchised take advantage of the amazing prosperity of the area."

Washington, the community, is changing. Certain neighborhoods significantly so. "Columbia Heights, Shaw, Le Droit Park, Adams Morgan—areas that have been very diverse—are becoming less and less so.  Change is okay; you just have to be able to manage it so you don't end up with homogenous communities," says Freeman.

With gentrification, urban life has become more attractive to the MTV generation.  "I do think it's wonderful that you are seeing more young people putting down their roots in town, but there has to be a balance. We can't build communities of childless families. The bulk of children are in the Southeast quadrant and they're mostly poor, mostly black and brown and in the most broken schools. We owe it to them to do better."

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Cardinal Bank
Arent Fox
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