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Head of Cumberland Community Foundation honored for 25 years of service

Mary Holmes, the CEO and president of the foundation, was recognized with a drive-by parade.


On one end of the tent, a jazz trio was swinging on a vintage Duke Ellington number as guests took bites of catered cupcakes.

The guests were there to honor Mary Holmes on her 25th anniversary as the president and CEO of the Cumberland Community Foundation.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, approximately 30 vehicles – including a miniature Red Cross vehicle – rolled through the back parking lot of the Cumberland Community Foundation off Green Street for an organized drive-by parade. Motorists were asked to “Honk, beep, yell and wave.”

Which, they did.

“Y'all are so nice,” she said, once guests entered the foundation’s community room where she stood by a wall with her husband, John.

"They surprised me. One hundred percent," she said later.

Through a series of speakers, the guests – if they didn’t already know it – learned that the 63-year-old Holmes is a builder, an excellent leader, that she possesses a remarkable ability to organize, that she’s a master of putting the right people in the right place and, after a perusal of her accomplishments, that she could have gone anywhere in this country and succeeded.

Instead, the Fayetteville native remained home.

And the community foundation has grown under her guidance. Since Holmes joined the staff, individual gifts have ranged from $2 to $10.5 million.

“This is an honor to be here to be with you on your 25th anniversary,” said Glenn Adams, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. “She chose to stay home in this community to be able to do what she has done. … The one thing I always tell everybody is that government can ignite a flame but it takes a community to turn it into a blaze. There are things government can’t do. And what Mary has done and what Cumberland Community Foundation has done is build a blaze throughout this community.

“We can’t even stop to think about the number of people who have been helped in this community,” he said. “She has always tried to bring this community together, to reach out no matter where we are and be able to bring it all together. That’s a testament to your leadership. That’s a testament to the core values that you bring to this organization and bring to this community.”

Other speakers included Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin, Holmes’ husband and former foundation board members.

Holmes came of age in the same Haymount house on Pugh Street where her mother also had grown up.

She was named president and CEO of the foundation in March 1997. After conducting a national search, the foundation board opted to hire a Fayetteville woman for the position – Holmes.

“The community foundation let me have a professional career,” she said. "This is my job. I'm very happy to have it.’’

Under her leadership, the Cumberland Community Foundation has grown from $4.68 million in endowment funds to $128 million in endowment funds.

“The numbers speak for themselves how the endowments have grown and how the community has benefited from the foundation,” said Amy Perko, a new member of the Cumberland Community Foundation board who has known Holmes for about 16 years.

According to its website, the nonprofit charitable foundation helps local nonprofits build their own endowments through current gifts and gifts planned in estates. More than 40 local charitable organizations have selected Cumberland Community Foundation as their endowment building partner.

Over that quarter-century of service, Holmes estimates that the foundation has helped about 250 charitable organizations. The foundation sends out $1 million in college scholarships on an annual basis, pays for roughly 1,000 youth to attend summer camp each year, provides rent money to charitable organizations and contributes to other causes, among them, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Operation Inasmuch and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.

“She is passionate about the community,” Libby Daniel, a former board chair, said. "She’s just been dedicated to the mission of this organization and has so much desire to make this community better.”

Holmes said she had given retirement some thought. But after recalling how her husband had gotten bored really quick after retiring, she changed that way of thinking.

“I learned my lesson,” she said. “I promise I will turn the foundation over to very capable hands, but it won’t be soon.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Cumberland Community Foundation, 25th anniversary, Mary Holmes, endowments, nonprofits