Helping out: Michelle Freeman of the Carl M. Freeman Cos.
Owner and board member of the Carl M. Freeman Cos., a real estate developer. She chairs the Carl M. Freeman Foundation and also the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, which honors the passions and interests of her late husband, Joshua Freeman.
Charitable giving highlights: The foundations contribute financially to various charities including the Washington National Opera, Manna Food Center, A Wider Circle and THEARC Theater.
Personal: Lives in Brookeville, Md., with her three children.
What shapes your giving?
I wasn't born wealthy so I have this great appreciation of what it is to be in need and not live the good life. There was a time in my life when I needed help and I reached out and help was there. To be involved with Ted Leonsis [chairman and majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment] and a group of really great business leaders who feel this great responsibility to their community, I naturally want to be better and a more philanthropic person.
When was the philanthropist in you born?
True story: I was a single mother with a 2-year-old and moving into my own place. I just happened to be at a hard time in my life. A local family that I knew left a table and two chairs at my townhouse. I was overwhelmed. They did this great act of kindness anonymously to allow me to keep my pride. I knew it was them.
I've always felt like you have to pass it forward, and of the many things my husband taught me, one thing was that 'to he whom much is given, much is required.'
What do you look for in a charity?
Impact. Is it changing people's lives?
For example, an organization in an area in Delaware where the infant mortality was one of the highest in the country asked us to sponsor women to receive prenatal care. I literally watched the infant mortality rate go down because of what we were funding.