A Profile in Giving: Building a Strong Foundation of Generosity

June 27, 2023Donor Stories

In addition to building homes, James and Martha Monroe build communities.

In 2006, when James and Martha were in their early twenties and had been married for a year, they launched James Monroe Homes.

For the first several years while the company was getting started, James received no salary from the business; it was Martha’s income as a registered nurse that sustained the family. Today, James Monroe Homes is a nationally recognized business that has won numerous awards, and James has been recognized as one of the top 40 under 40 professionals in the country by Professional Builder magazine.

Even during those early lean years, the Monroes made giving back a priority. At the end of each year, James and Martha reviewed how much money they had earned and then chose which charities to support.

“Our philosophy was always: Don’t wait until you have a lot to give. When you have a little, give a little. When you have more, give more,” said James.

As the Monroes found they had more to give, the couple considered forming a nonprofit so they could be more strategic with their giving. An attorney they consulted urged them to contact Blue Grass Community Foundation instead.

“BGCF showed us how we could continue to support our passions in a way that would also maximize our gifts,” said Martha.

The Monroes are especially passionate about helping those who struggle financially. James grew up in Lexington, the middle of five children. His family frequently ran out of food stamps before the end of the month. School breakfasts and lunches were often the only meals James and his siblings could count on. The family had no health insurance. A higher than-expected electric bill could spell disaster.

Martha was sensitive to the realities of poverty as well and worked through Lexington Parks & Recreation with children at the Kenwick Community Center. She frequently took the kids on field trips to the old Charles Young Center in Lexington.

Recently, the Monroes used their charitable giving fund at the Community Foundation to make a major gift to Splash!, a water feature scheduled to open this summer in the newly refurbished Charles Young playground in Lexington’s East End, a neighborhood traditionally lacking in free, kid-friendly water features and dynamic green spaces. The neighborhood, said James, reminded him of the place where he grew up, a place where people work hard yet still struggle financially.

The Monroes also use their fund to support their favorite charities and to match charitable donations of employees of James Monroe Homes. And, because the Monroe’s Fund is endowed, it will continue to have an impact beyond James’ and Martha’s lifetimes.

Perhaps most important of all, the Monroes want to teach their three children—James (16), Topher (14), and Mary (9)—that giving back to one’s community is an important responsibility, no matter where you start or how much you have to give. Investing in an endowed giving fund at BGCF allows the Monroes to lead by example.

“We highly encourage others to start a giving fund at the Community Foundation,” said James. “Not only will donors learn how their contributions can impact an entire community, they’ll also learn how much fun it is to give.”

To learn how you and your family can support your community and leave a meaningful legacy, contact BGCF Vice President/ Advancement Scott Fitzpatrick at 859.225.3343.