Active listening is one of the most effective communication tools we have. To actively listen requires not only to hear but to respond in ways that assure others are heard. That form of active listening is exactly the approach Frances and Donald Sykes took back in 1992 when they decided to invest family resources to create the Pascale Sykes Foundation. Their intention was to effect change by being bold, “out of the box” thinkers, investing in the lives of communities, those in need, and those with dreams and goals of success.

The Southern region of New Jersey is known for being rural. The area boasts beautiful, sprawling green farmland. The eight-county region sandwiched between the city of Philadelphia to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east is home to a diverse racial and socio-economic population. Over the past few decades, the region has seen its fair share of growth accompanied at times by pure devastation.

Families and businesses alike have fled the area in search of more lucrative opportunities in more urban environments. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the region had been experiencing rising unemployment rates, negative educational outcomes for children, and closing businesses.

The problems of Southern New Jersey spoke to the Sykes family, and through a community-led approach, they decided not only to listen, but to act. In 2010 they brought together local residents, political figures, clergy, educators, nonprofit leaders, and business owners to discuss the most pressing needs of the four-county area of Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem. Through active listening, the Sykes were able to learn what the local communities needed to thrive. This knowledge then became the basis of the Foundation’s philanthropic giving in the region, which ultimately funded twenty-one collaborative efforts comprised of 123 individual agencies.

Read the full article about active listening within family foundations by Richelle Todd-Yamoah at Philanthropy Daily.