Philanthropy is personal, results driven for Gorhams

“There are some things that money can’t buy. Seeing how happy and productive a person’s life can be when they are in recovery is one of those things.” – Charlie Gorham, philanthropist

Charlie and Jean Gorham have seen first-hand the effects addictions can have on an individual, a family and the community. The couple’s two sons have struggled with their own addictions.

The family’s journey to get help and recovery ultimately landed in the Fox Valley, where assistance from Nova Counseling (Oshkosh), The Mooring Programs (Appleton) and STEP Industries (Neenah) has brought success. That personal experience drives the Gorhams’ charitable support for those programs.

“Many people and organizations have helped us and now we want to give back. We are blessed to be able to offer something to them,” says Charlie.

But the Gorhams do more than give. They are among a growing trend of donors who are highly engaged in the causes they financially support. They constantly assess the value of their contributions, and are ready to move their philanthropy around if they’re not satisfied with the results.

The Gorhams started a donor advised fund with the Foundation last year. While they live in Milwaukee, their sons went through recovery in the Fox Valley and continue to live here, so they were familiar with the region. Charlie also has been a board member of STEP Industries for the past 10 years.

“Charlie brings a great balance of business thinking with compassion for the mission,” says Michelle Devine Giese, STEP Industries president. “He wants STEP to succeed and be here for everyone who needs it, but also sees that STEP needs to have a sustainable model. He challenges the other board members and management all in an effort to make us better.”

The Gorhams are inspired by innovation, leadership and opportunity, and the Foundation was highly recommended for that, says Charlie. The Foundation has provided ongoing support to local addiction treatment services, and through the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, has joined with U.S. Venture, the J. J. Keller Foundation and other donors to fund a multi-agency collaboration to create a sober living house in Oshkosh. The program would provide recovering addicts a safe and supportive environment to transition from treatment to regular life for as long as they need it.

In addition to support for addiction treatment services from their donor advised fund, the Gorhams both philosophically and financially support the sober living house pilot.

The co-investment exemplifies the power of philanthropy in Oshkosh, where many organizations, foundations and individuals are coming together to support innovation and be a catalyst for change.

“I like to be involved in these organizations so that I know where our dollars are going. I’ve worked hard for what I have. I want to know it is being spent well,” says Charlie. “And I’d like to do more. I want to see (the results of my charitable giving) in my lifetime, not when I’m dead.”