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Couple encourages gifts of generosity

Mary Ann Jackson

It's no surprise how important the holidays are to Mary Ann Jackson: She grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a town nicknamed "Christmas City, USA." For her, the season evokes memories of nativity pageants, caroling, and traveling house to house exchanging gifts with family. "I close my eyes and I can still smell my grandmother's ham," she reflected.

While many traditions remain part of her fabric today, others have changed over time. "I don't need another KitchenAid mixer," she laughed. Yet, Mary Ann understands – even embraces – the generous spirit of friends and family seeking the perfect gift for the person they love. So, the day after Christmas in 1996, Mary Ann and her husband, Dr. Tom Jackson, made a gift to one another – and the community – while creating a meaningful channel for their loved ones to honor them: the Dr. Tom and Mary Ann Jackson Fund. 

Whether it's Christmas or another special occasion, the Jacksons encourage friends to forgo gifts and instead make a donation to their Akron Community Foundation fund.

The fund is a capstone to the couple's migration from Eastern Pennsylvania to Akron, a move they made in 1971 after Tom, a radiologist, accepted a job at Akron General Medical Center.

"Tom assured me we would be here for no more than two years," Mary Ann said. "But we quickly realized what a special place this is. It was a perfect location to raise our family."

So, Mary Ann got involved in the community. Through the Junior League of Akron, she traveled the city, putting on puppet shows for Akron Public Schools students in every part of town. "I had a great big green Buick station wagon and we could fit all of the stuff in it, so I was always the driver. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have known where Kenmore or Ellet were. It was a fun way to get to know our new community."

She also launched First Night Akron, downtown Akron's family-friendly New Year's Eve event now in its 20th year. It made perfect sense, given her love for the arts: She majored in music and taught vocal music in Philadelphia. That passion manifested itself in her board leadership with organizations like the Akron Symphony Orchestra, Tuesday Musical, Children's Concert Society and the Akron Civic Theatre. 

Through the couple's donor-advised fund, they can streamline how they give back to the causes that introduced – even immersed – them in the traditions of Akron. They can contribute to their fund once a year or as often as they like, then make grants to their favorite nonprofits over time. "It's a responsible vehicle to give back to the community, but in a way that you can hold the reins," she said. 

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