Barry M. Kessler Endowment Fund for Basic Needs
Barry Kessler, a native of the Lehigh Valley, is a man who cares deeply about serving others in both his professional and philanthropic life. When Barry realized that life had treated him well and given him opportunities that he never expected to have, he felt compelled to do for the less fortunate. He lives by the term noblesse oblige, which means “the inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged.”
In 1964, Barry received his degree in chemistry from St. Lawrence University. He spent only 10 years of his career working for high-profile chemical companies before he started his own company, Kessler Chemical Inc., located in Bethlehem. During the early 1970s, it was a particularly difficult time to start a profitable chemical business because of the oil embargo by OPEC countries; however, the company focused on two important elements to overcome this hardship – a commitment to exceptional customer service and identification of strategic markets. His grit and entrepreneurial abilities had allowed Kessler Chemical to grow into a respected supplier of various chemical products. To this day, Kessler Chemical is always seeking new ways to be of service to their customers through innovation and communication.
Before Barry became a donor, he was a very active volunteer. He was referred to the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation by his financial adviser, who noticed that Barry was growing increasingly interested in doing more for the organizations he served. His first designated fund with the Community Foundation was earmarked to go to the seven charities that he was personally involved with as a volunteer.
Since his affiliation with the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, Barry became more proactive in learning about the needs of the community. After reading Dr. Christopher Borick’s Reflections paper, it struck him that there was a great need among people who have no food or shelter, or have limited access.
LVCF helped Barry establish an area of interest fund to support this cause, while providing him the opportunity to participate in the application review process. Utilizing the Foundation’s network and knowledge of the nonprofits in the region that address food and housing issues, LVCF sourced high quality grant applications from a diverse set of organizations serving various aspects of the issue.
In April 2019, the Barry M. Kessler Fund at the Community Foundation announced $50,000 in grants to ten nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley that provide food and housing services to vulnerable populations. The LVCF team, Mr. Kessler, and other interested fundholders had an opportunity to visit some of these nonprofits to see the grant dollars put to work. Mr. Kessler said, “It was very rewarding to me—to have that connection—between the opportunity to give and the opportunity to see where my giving is benefiting people in the Lehigh Valley.”
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