Front Porch Communities Foundation: Caring, Connection and Being Human

This guest post by Katharine Miller, Executive Director of the Front Porch Communities Foundation, is presented as part of our Powered by Connection series for Older Americans Month

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month (OAM). The 2024 theme is Powered by Connection, which recognizes the profound impact that meaningful relationships and social connections have on our health and well-being.

Woman with blonde hair and blue jacket stands holding microphone

Connection with one another and caring about something larger than ourselves is at the heart of philanthropy, and makes possible the work of the Front Porch Communities Foundation. The desire to make a difference in the world is generally driven by caring about others. The programs and services supported by the Foundation are possible because those who live in Front Porch communities and participate in Front Porch programs care enough to make them available for one another.

A core mission of the Foundation, the Circle of Friends fund, reflects a commitment by residents to be there for one another when times are tough, to help provide for those in their communities who outlive their resources. Charitable gifts through the Foundation to help others in need are entwined in the roots of Front Porch and its predecessor organizations. In the 1860s, a group of friends who went to church together saw that many older women were living in poverty in their community. They banded together and built a residence for older women in need. That residence today is the Presidio Gate Apartments, a Front Porch affordable senior housing community in San Francisco.

Gifts from pioneer residents through Front Porch communities seeded the Foundation’s Circle of Friends fund. Gifts through the Foundation to help others, enhance quality of life and improve communities reflect the deep sense of connection that Front Porch community residents and program participants develop with one another. We are reminded of those deep connections when an estate gift to the Foundation arrives, providing an echo of the joyous life that someone shared with others in their community.

Other Foundation funds demonstrate the connections within the larger Front Porch community. The Foundation’s HEART fund (Helping Employees at Risk Today) provides emergency support when staff members experience a financial crisis. Many staff members make regular charitable contributions to the HEART fund through payroll deductions, and residents often make contributions to the fund.

Participants in the Front Porch connection programs – Well Connected, Well Connected Español, and Social Call – often speak of the importance of the programs to their overall well-being. The programs are provided at no charge and though many participants get by on fixed incomes, charitable gifts for the programs are on the upswing. Humans exist in social groups – and have thrived by connecting with others, whether hunting, gathering or building civilizations. Research shows that our brains are wired for human attention and interaction – connecting with others. And when people even contemplate giving to others, the pleasure centers of our brains light up. What an amazing thing it is to make a difference to others.