With Pinot Noir vineyards spread out below him, George Tuttle sits on his porch and surveys the West County home he shares with his spouse Ben Cushman.
When asked to explain his philanthropy, he shakes his head. “The guilt factor is pretty high when you’re sitting here in Sonoma County on your nice deck and all of these awful things are going on all around the world,” he says.
Ben says, “Philanthropy is a learned practice that feeds on itself and, in my case, George was the one who made it clear many years ago that this was important.” He smiles. “I was not a hard case to convert.”
George is a retired corporate attorney; Ben retired from sales and marketing. The couple moved from San Francisco to Sonoma County permanently in 2005. Looking to become involved with their new community, they came to the Community Foundation.
Education, hunger, the international refugee crisis, and civil rights are among the causes dear to their hearts, and sitting on the porch ignoring those needs is simply not an option.
In 2013, the couple was introduced to the Giving Circle concept by the Community Foundation and chose to support the LGBTQI community. Fifty people came to their house for the Giving Circle’s initial gathering. George and Ben knew one of their guests. The rest became new friends. “I’m excited about having the Community Foundation provide leadership in terms of bringing opportunities to us,” Ben says of this new Giving Circle.
Ben and George are legacy donors whose generosity will be dispersed through the Community Foundation within 10 years after their passing. While healthy and hale, the two estimate that they currently donate some 80 percent of their income. To them, giving just isn’t a choice.
“For us,” Ben says, “there’s always a struggle around: Are we doing enough? Are we giving enough? Can we be doing more? We don’t have an answer,” he says, looking at George. “We live that question all the time.”