A Family Legacy

Ethel and Bob Blum sailing their boat 'Edel' around Saddleback Island in Jericho Bay. Photo courtesy of the Blum familyThe way Jack Blum and Alice Blum Yoakum remember it, when Ed Kaelber came to their father with the idea of launching the Maine Community Foundation, Bob pulled a $10 bill from his wallet and made the first contribution. He soon established the Dirigo Fund at the New York Community Trust, which allowed Kaelber, recently retired as president of College of the Atlantic, to dedicate all his time and energy to establishing the community foundation.

Maine meant the world to Bob and his wife, painter Ethel Blum. Mount Desert Island had been their summer home since they first visited Ethel’s father, a professor of pharmacology at Tulane Medical School, who spent summers studying the cell structures of dogfish at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. The Blums fell in love with what daughter Alice describes as “a venerable, gray farmhouse knee deep in meadow grass,” a home they named Deer Acres.

Philanthropy is as deeply embedded in the Blum family as their love for Maine. Four generations of Blums served on the board of the Institute of Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, N.Y. Bob and Ethel Blum supported an array of cultural, environmental, and community organizations.

The Blum children continue that tradition of giving. Jack Blum was a trustee of the Jackson Laboratory, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and several schools, including Hotchkiss. Alice Yoakum was a founding member of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, which her father helped launch, and currently serves on the board of the Foundation for Community Health, which fosters the physical and mental health of the residents of the northwest hills region of Connecticut where she lives. “It is simply what you do,” says Yoakum. “You give back to the community.”

Ethel Blum, 'Charted Waters (Merchants Row, Maine),' watercolor. College of the Atlantic's Blum Gallery is named for the artist.Maine remains in the Blum family’s hearts and sights. Jack Blum’s daughter Suzette Devine, who lives in Falmouth, has a donor-advised fund and is a member of the advisory committee for the community foundation’s Maine Expansion Arts Fund. And though the family has sold much of Deer Acres, they have turned their boathouse into a cottage for frequent visits to Maine.

Asked about the role of community foundations, Yoakum states, “They bring people together because they identify unmet local and regional needs, and help people to do something about them.” Furthermore, she says, they “stimulate an outpouring of philanthropic funding to meet those needs.”

Asked whether the Maine Community Foundation has made a difference in the lives of the communities it serves and in protecting the state’s natural resources, Yoakum and Blum reply with a resounding “Yes.” Adds the former, “You’ve come a long way, Maine Community Foundation.”