The Salah Foundation: A Brave Family Making a Huge Difference | Global Down Syndrome Foundation

The Salah Foundation: A Brave Family Making a Huge Difference

Salah

From Down Syndrome World Issue 3 2018

The Salah family and the Salah Foundation are giving countless people hope, life-changing support, and a brighter future. For the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the Salah Foundation is making its dream come true — the opening of a state-of-the-art education center for the differently-abled.

THE SALAH FAMILY is originally from Lebanon, a country of great maritime and cultural history, where even in the second millennium BC, people living in the area cultivated land in a sophisticated society. The ancient Lebanese were creators of the oldest known 24-letter alphabet, and eventually, their alphabet would influence Hebrew, Aramaic, and other languages throughout the Mediterranean region. More recent history has been tumultuous for Lebanon, including during World War I (1914–1918), after which the country was put under the direct control of France. It was during this difficult time, in 1919, that Joseph and Nora Salah courageously left their Maronite Christian hometown and emigrated from Lebanon to the United States in pursuit of a better life.
With little money and unable to speak English, the Salahs worked hard to make a life for themselves and their three children: Isabel, James, and George. James “Jim” Salah was a natural and brilliant entrepreneur. He started his own construction business in Boston, handling some of the city’s largest utility projects, and then branched out into real estate and heavy equipment leasing, and his companies prospered. Upon his death in 2009, The Salah Foundation was founded and now serves as a living tribute to his lifelong success and generosity. Today, Jim’s commitment to philanthropy lives on through his niece, Noreen Salah Burpee, who serves as Executive Director of the foundation.

A FORMIDABLE FORCE FOR GOOD
Under the direction of Burpee, The Salah Foundation has become a formidable force for good. “We have a special interest in self-sufficiency programs,” Burpee explains. “We seek to improve the lives of the under educated, undernourished, and medically needy to become productive and responsible citizens.” The foundation has an emphasis on the economically disadvantaged, young, elderly, and disabled. “The need for responsible philanthropy is almost overwhelming,” Burpee said. “Our greatest inspiration is when we witness someone breaking the cycle of poverty, or ignorance, or homelessness.” Burpee has tapped her own three children — Fred Churbuck, Megan Fearnow, and George J. Taylor — to share the responsibility of philanthropy. “It is a privilege to work together as a family ,” Burpee explains. “Each board member brings their own personal passions to the table. We are a brave family and not afraid to fund the underserved.” Some important organizations that are close to their hearts include The Salah Foundation’s Children’s Hospital at Broward Health and The Noreen Salah Burpee Adult Infusion Center, an inpatient cancer center, both in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and most recently, The Salah Foundation Learning Zone at the future Global Down Syndrome Foundation Education Center of Excellence. The Salah Foundation connected with Global’s dedication to research, medical care, education, and advocacy for people with
Down syndrome. When the family learned about the lack of research funding and medical care and the discrimination against people with Down syndrome, Burpee says she was “very moved by each child with Down syndrome and their supporting families. The very thought that their needs and the needs of children like them were
not being met made us very sad.” “Research is the key,” she continues. “People must be educated on the difficulties and lives of these children so they can live productive, meaningful lives, and Global is doing just that.”


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TWO GENERATIONS OF IMPACT GIVING
Burpee’s son, Fred Churbuck, was the first to experience Global at one of our annual Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show fundraisers. Churbuck admits that at first he didn’t want to attend. “I thought I would feel uncomfortable,” he says. “I had never met a person with Down syndrome.” Then something magical happened. The keynote speaker, Tim Harris, came out, and his speech touched Churbuck. “He was so energetic and articulate, and then he turns to the audience and says, ‘I’m living my dream. You ask yourself, are you living yours? Are you the best you can be?” Churbuck retells the moment. “For the next few weeks, I had all my marketing team watch Tim on video, and we were all inspired.” Over the next two years, The Salah Foundation generously funded Global’s important adult life skills classes and a post – secondary research study that spelled out, for the first time , how adults with Down syndrome best learn life skills and improve their cognitive abilities. “The support that Salah provided to our class and research helped us to make adults more self-sufficient while being able to create and share best practices,” says Bryn Gelaro, LSW (licensed social worker), Global’s Director of Adult Initiatives and Special Projects. Then in 2017, four years to the date of Churbuck at tending Global’s annual fundraiser, the Salah family at tended with a game-changing surprise announcement. Burpee got on stage and announced a new pledge to help under write Global’s future Education Center of Excellence with the lar gest single donation Global has received — $1 million. “We are out of our minds grateful!” says Michelle Sie Whitten, President and CEO of Global. “The Salah Foundation was amazingly generous, and it was so hard to keep it a secret — literally even our board didn’t know. We were so intent on making it a surprise. There were 1,400 people in attendance, we were sold out, and then the lovely, articulate Noreen gets up there and just makes the announcement. Even Quincy Jones, John C. McGinley, Jamie Foxx, and Eva Longoria were high-fiving each other!” Burpee recalls, “When I made that pledge and hear d the gasps and then the applause, I looked to my family’s table and saw them standing and wildly applauding. It took my breath away.” The 2017 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show was the largest grossing Global fundraiser to date.

INCLUSION, INSPIRATION, AND ACHIEVEMENT
Global’s future Education Center will open in 2019. The Education Center will house The Salah Foundation Learning Zone where transformative educational programs for adults and children with Down syndrome will be held. To better understand the needs of the local community, Global organized an informal listening campaign and survey resulting in 26 disability organizations identifying programs and classes that could take place in The Salah Foundation Learning Zone. Examples of programs already being planned are cooking classes, computer classes, and summer center-based learning classes so children with Down syndrome can be better prepared for the school year. The Education Center is nestled between the Cherry Creek neighborhood of over 1,000 residents and the vibrant Cherry Creek North shopping district with over 600 businesses and 8 ,000 employees. A key focus of the center will be vocational training with the long-term goal of having 30 to 40 people who are differently abled working in Cherry Creek North. “We are not just a check-writing foundation but a partner in philanthropy,” Burpee says. The partnership with The Salah Foundation and the Salah family will surely empower the dreams of those with Down syndrome and the differently-abled for years to come.

The Salah Foundation is a private foundation that makes investments in nonprofits by invitation only.

Salah
Draft rendering of The Salah Foundation Learning Zone at Global Down Syndrome Foundation Courtesy of OfficeScapes and ArtHouse Design

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