For Russell J. Ebeid, giving back to the community is more than an obligation; it is an opportunity to fulfill his passions through his generosity. After years of faithful giving, Russell recently made the decision to grant a $500,000 endowed gift to the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan (CFSEM). “I am at the stage in my life where I want to give back in a larger way. I saw an opportunity to create a sustainable fund that would be measured out for years to come,” Russell says.
Russell’s philanthropy is guided by two passions: a desire to make a difference in educational opportunities for underserved youth mostly from immigrant families and a desire to stay close to his Lebanese heritage. The son of Lebanese immigrants, Ebeid grew up in a family with a strong work ethic. Neither parent finished high school, but they instilled in Russell the value of hard work and strength of character. Through their guidance, he rose from this working-class family to become one of four directors of Guardian Industries and the president of the Guardian Glass Group, world leaders in glass, automotive and building products sciences. “From the beginning, Russell explored every option for giving, looking for ways to leverage his generous donation for the greatest impact. Russell could have given directly to Kettering University, his alma mater, for a scholarship fund. Instead, he decided to work through ACCESS to engage the broader community in his donation while benefiting Kettering and bringing greater visibility to ACCESS and the Arab American National Museum,” said Maha Freij, ACCESS Deputy Executive Director/CFO. With the guidance of ACCESS staff, Russ created an endowed fund at the CFSEM. Russell was able to leverage his $500,000 to receive a $250,000 match from the CFSEM, establishing the $750,000 Ebeid Family Fund. For the first 25 years of the fund, the majority of the grants will be given as scholarships for Arab American youth attending Kettering University. The Ebeid Family Fund will then become a permanent endowment after 25 years to support charitable programs in southeast Michigan that provide educational, arts and cultural opportunities for promising, low-income youth with demonstrated leadership skills. “The Ebeid Family Fund was recently established as the result of a strong partnership between ACCESS and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Mr. Ebeid has established a legacy that will support educational and cultural services in southeast Michigan and across the United States in a manner that we hope will motivate other philanthropists in the Arab American community. We are proud to work with ACCESS and with the Ebeid family, and we hope that other community foundations around the country will also partner with Arab American non-profit organizations to cultivate their donors for strategic and long-term philanthropy,” said Mariam Noland, President of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Russell said, “I feel good about what I am doing. It takes work to be successful in your giving, but you feel better about giving back. I hope that my experience will inspire other Arab Americans to stand up, be proud of their identity and give generously where they can.”
Ebeid’s gift is also breaking ground across the nation in the area of Arab American philanthropy. ACCESS’ Collaborative for Arab American Philanthropy program is building on the deep philanthropic tradition of the Arab American community by encouraging Arab Americans to give more strategically. The Ebeid Family Fund provides a model for other Arab Americans to engage in broader philanthropy in their community.