When Rob McCarthy started a local company that eventually became known as Lightspeed Systems 35 years ago, he and his wife, Judi, talked often about doing something philanthropically should good fortune come their way.
Indeed it did.
The company grew by leaps and bounds and in April, Lightspeed, now headquartered in Austin, Texas, since 2014, received a major investment from a leading private equity firm based in Chicago.
But Austin wasn’t going to be the beneficiary of a substantial gift.
“We live there, we have a new life there, but our hearts and the hearts of many of the employees who moved with us are in Bakersfield,” Judi said. “Bakersfield has been so good to us. We married there, it’s where our children grew up and our business was born.”
Conversely, as the McCarthys see it, they could not have grown to the point where a major investor came on board had they remained here.
Fulfilling their wish to pay it forward, the couple gifted $2.5 million to the Kern Community Foundation, the largest single donation from an individual or family to the foundation to date. For 20 years, the organization has matched donors with community members and groups to meet the needs of the county.
“It reflects their commitment to true philanthropy and a willingness to use personal resources to find opportunities to create lasting, systemic change here in Kern County,” said foundation President and CEO Kristen Beall.
The gift includes a $400,000 two-for-one matching donation to the foundation’s Women’s and Girls’ Fund, meaning for every $1 the fund receives, the McCarthy’s will match with $2. Judi’s commitment to the foundation extends back to 2004, when she was asked to join the board and explore the feasibility of creating a Women’s and Girls’ Fund that launched the following year and continues to impact the lives of women and girls in Kern County through grant-making, mentoring and education.
There is a growing movement across the country led by high-profile women, like Mackenzie Bezos, who are pledging to give away half their wealth during their lifetime. McCarthy emphasizes she sees no comparison between what she and her husband have done and what Bezos and others are doing, but hopes that this new trend of giving by and for women in order to pool donations and generate millions in impactful grants will also erase a long-held misbelief that one must be wealthy to give.
“A big ethos now within this growing practice of women’s giving is that a woman can and should consider herself a philanthropist,” Judi added. “Time, treasure and talent are the three components of philanthropy.”
Rob and Judi have embraced the words of Winston Churchill, who said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
Kern County is all the richer for their generosity and may we all be inspired to give of our time, our talents and our treasure. For more information about Kern Community Foundation and its wide range of options, visit www.kernfoundation.org. ￼
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lisa Kimble.