“Are you familiar with the Jewish religion? Do you know what ‘tikkun olam’ means?” Carol Newman asks.
“It means, ‘to repair the world.’ It’s a mitzvah, a good deed.”
Her husband, Barry Sovel, adds, “It’s very much a part of our cultural and religious background.”
Carol and Barry’s desire to help heal the world’s ills is at the heart of their commitment to giving. And their long-standing love of Sonoma County is what ties them to make that difference right here, in our small corner of the world.
Both are native Sonoma County residents and retired school teachers, and their support for education and learning is a lifelong commitment. They recently funded scholarships at Roseland University Prep and made a grant to the Museum of Sonoma County to support their Sonoma Stories exhibit, which features the oral histories of Gaye LeBaron.
Together since their first blind date in 2003, these two have been through significant life changes together, from navigating their retirement plans, to losing their Crystal Drive home in the 2017 fires and rebuilding their new home.
FINDING THE FOUNDATION
After they made what Barry calls “a fortunate investment with a startup,” their financial advisor, Chris Dobson, recommended they look into the Community Foundation. Chris’ suggestion immediately made sense to Carol, thanks to her involvement as a founding member of the Impact 100 Redwood Circle, a program supported by CFSC.
Every year, in Impact 100 Redwood Circle, a group of more than 200 local philanthropic women gathers to combine their impact through a collective grants program that gives more than $200,000 a year through a fund hosted at the Foundation.
In addition to the social benefits of meeting other community-minded women, Carol has learned about the work of many local nonprofit organizations, and she’s had the opportunity to take part in their grant decision-making process as a member of the grants committee.
Carol and Barry realized it would be helpful to set aside funds dedicated for giving. “Later on, we learned that there were also tax advantages. We didn’t realize that at first, to be quite honest.”
Their donor advised fund has proved to be much more than just a financial benefit. “This gave us a venue,” Barry adds. “We’ve started channeling all of our charitable giving through the Foundation.”
While they each have projects they want to support, they take a collaborative approach to their giving. “We talk about it,” Carol explains. “Usually, we both say, ‘If it’s important to you, go ahead.’”
Their collaborative approach to life was critical in the days and months after they lost their home in the 2017 fires. Even the trauma of losing the home Carol had owned for more than 30 years came with some silver linings. “That morning, I looked at Barry, and I whispered, ‘I don’t have to clean out the garage anymore,’” she says.
For Barry, the loss of their home brought a fresh perspective: “We both traveled before we met each other, and now with each other. We’ve seen a lot of different ways people live. We know how fragile it can be, and we know how fortunate we are. We survived a fire. We had our house and all its contents disappear.”
“But not our home,” Carol adds, “We said that all along: We lost our house, but not our home.”
Today, they’re happily living in the remodeled ranch house that was once owned by Barry’s grandparents.
Despite the hardships of the past few years, their generosity and connection to doing good—to tikkun olam—is stronger than ever.