Donor Spotlight: Foundations of Support 

Dec 20, 2021 | News

Peter Spina of Denver and sister Michelle Schmidt of Boston. Both grew up in Lenox, and their family foundation is a generous CHP contributor.


Peter Spina and his sister Michelle Schmidt have left the Berkshires to live in Denver (Peter) and the Boston area (Michelle), but their family philanthropy is close to their hometown roots.

This year, for the first time, they generously directed funds from their family foundation to support CHP. Natives of Lenox, Peter now lives in Colorado, and Michelle lives in the Boston area.

Recently the Gilson Family Foundation, led by Peter and Michelle, contributed $55,000 for construction of a CHP food distribution “depot” on the Great Barrington Community Health Center campus. The stand-alone building will bring much-needed storage and additional refrigeration space to CHP Family Services’ food and nutrition programs, which have exploded during Covid-19.

Another $15,000 for the project comes from Robin and Elizabeth “Buzz” McGraw of Sheffield via the Donald C. McGraw Foundation. It’s one of two McGraw family foundations that have supported CHP over the years.

Peter Spina and his sister Michelle Schmidt have left the Berkshires to live in Denver and Boston. But their family philanthropy is close to their hometown roots.

The Spinas and McGraws are excellent examples of how family foundations make a difference at CHP. In this case, it’s all about food security: CHP’s Family Services building is simply out of space to handle incoming and outgoing food, for which CHP has become a South County hub.

“Care, cure, and education—this is our very broad mission, and CHP covers all of those bases,” said Peter. “CHP’s food security efforts are making an impact on people who need healthy, nutritious food.”

Who is the Gilson, of the Gilson Family Foundation? Uncle Leo Gilson, now deceased, was the brother of Mary Gilson Spina of Lenox, Peter and Michelle’s mom. Uncle Leo and his wife Lucy lived on the North Shore of Boston, and they managed their foundation until Uncle Leo’s death six years ago. Aunt Lucy survived her husband, but several years ago the Gilsons entrusted Peter, now 43, and Michelle, 45, with the foundation.

Robin McGraw, senior director of Black Rock Foundation, said, “poverty, homelessness, homeless vets, substance abuse and food vulnerability are all issues that were exasperated exponentially by COVID 19. Supporting CHP with food distribution directly helps those in South County.”

“Peter and Michelle are the ideal example of Berkshire natives who are keeping connected from afar, and we welcome them as first-time donors,” said CHP CEO Lia Spiliotes. “Robin and Buzz McGraw are loyal, longtime supporters of CHP, and between these two generous families, we can better organize and manage our food security operations.”

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