From the beginning, Samara’s founders were inspired by the unmet need for charitable giving, bequests, and granting opportunities to benefit the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities of Vermont. Founded in 1992, the Samara Foundation of Vermont was established as a nonprofit corporation and operated until 1998 as the Human Rights Foundation of Vermont. In 2011, the Samara Foundation joined in partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation to build the capacity of both organizations to provide excellent donor and grantee services to Vermont’s LGBTQ communities.
Samara's initial resources consisted of two funds:
The general fund was established by bequests from two individuals. Robert Mundstock (1947 -1992), Vermont artist and activist, became the Foundation's founding donor with a bequest that sustained the Foundation's initial development. Douglas C. Howe (1949 - 1996) of Hinesburg, Vermont, worked closely with the foundation to enlarge this general fund. The extraordinary vision and generosity of his bequest makes possible the Foundation's ability to support a variety of projects and organizations that benefit our communities.
The Foundation's second fund was the Douglas C. Howe and Frank E. Shivers Trust, an endowed fund memorializing Doug and his life partner, Frank Shivers. In creating this Trust, Doug asked that its income be distributed within Vermont "primarily to organizations that assist young gay and lesbian people to lead healthy, productive lives."
Bill Lippert, one of Samara's two founding incorporators and the long-time Executive Director of the Samara Foundation, often talked about Robert Mundstock's desire to give as the catalyst for incorporating the foundation, and of Doug Howe's extraordinary vision and generosity in funding the fledgling foundation.
Robert, a close friend of Bill’s, and a person living with AIDS, challenged Bill to "stop talking about creating a Vermont GLBT foundation" and instead "do something about it, or I will not be able to leave you anything!" It was Robert's blunt words of challenge and encouragement in the face of his own imminent death that motivated Bill and co-founder David Curtis to incorporate the foundation in 1992. Robert died some months later, and through a bequest in his will became the first person to contribute to the newly formed Vermont LGBT foundation.
Earlier, Robert had also planted the seed for the foundation's future name as "Samara Foundation" when he offered the word "samara" as "a word I have always liked for its symbolic meaning of 'planting seeds and growth' and its connection to the landscape of Vermont." "Use it to name a project someday," he urged.
Later, Douglas Howe gave the foundation his own powerful boost of life, when he made the incredibly generous and visionary offer of bequeathing his estate to the foundation to benefit the Vermont GLBT community.
"Our work in bringing the Samara Foundation to full life is fulfillment of the faith Doug placed in us. Our work today honors his vision of what the foundation could do, and especially for young gay people in our communities," Bill reflected.
"It is of great satisfaction to our family that Douglas' wishes have been fulfilled. Douglas did not want any other young gay person ever again to have to go through what he did," commented Doug’s mother, Theo Howe.
“The vision and generosity of our founding benefactors continue to inspire other members of our communities to sustain and nourish the foundation,” Lippert said. “They have left a permanent legacy for our communities. We are all inspired and deeply grateful."
- Rachel Atkins, Richmond
- Paula Baker, Wallingford
- Susan Baker, Montpelier
- Euan Bear, Bakersfield
- Eileen Blackwood, Williston
- Natalie Brennan, Dummerston
- John Crane, White River Junction
- *David Curtis, Burlington
- Robert Dostis, Waterbury Center
- *Glen Elder, Burlington
- Bart Evans, Brattleboro
- Pat Fontaine, Shelburne
- Sarah Harrington, Richmond
- Warren Hathaway, Plainfield
- Mary Hurlie, Hinesburg
- Bill Lippert, Hinesburg, Founding Board President
- Mac Lippert, Jericho
- Linda Markin, Hardwick
- Pam Misener, Norwich
- Jeff Moore, St. Johnsbury
- Howdy Russell, Hinesburg
- Harry Scott, Hinesburg
- Mary Alice Schatzle, Starksboro
- Greg Sharrow, Pittsford
- Jayne Sheridan, Richmond
- Day Surles, South Burlington
- Ruth Uphold, Charlotte
- Nancy Wasserman, Montpelier
- Suzi Wizowaty, Burlington
- Richard Wizansky, Guilford