Major Chester County Foundation Joins the Satell Institute, Supporting Four Nonprofits


The Justamere Foundation, which gives away $4 million annually in grants, believes that small solutions can lead to big results

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The Justamere Foundation hasn’t been around long, but it’s certainly made its impact felt.

Founded in 2021 by a Chester County family (who prefer to remain in the background), the foundation puts an emphasis on helping people overcome concrete obstacles that can stop them from moving forward in their lives—with an eye on very practical solutions like nontraditional scholarships.

At Stevens Institute of Technology, for example, Justamere supported a program called Cars to Careers, which provides cars to low-income students so they can get to crucial internships. Through the Task Force Movement, the foundation funds training for military vets to transition into hard-to-fill jobs in the trucking industry. The goal of much of its work: to help people become self-sufficient.

Thanks to its commitment to nonprofits, Justamere has quickly become one of Chester County’s most significant philanthropic organizations, this year offering grants of $4 million. It’s also become a new—and significant— Satell Institute member, supporting four nonprofit organizations through its SI membership (Bucks County Community College Foundation, Delaware County Community College Educational Foundation, West Chester University Foundation, and  Thaddeus Stevens Foundation).

In this conversation, Justamere’s president, Lori Cushman, talks about the organization’s mission, its practical approach to problem solving, and the benefits she’s already seen from being introduced to SI.

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The Justamere Foundation was started…
…by a Chester County family during the pandemic. They saw that there were a lot of jobs out there that weren’t getting filled, and a lot of young people that needed those jobs. But there were obstacles that were keeping them from getting the jobs. And usually those obstacles were not what we would consider huge: A six-week training course for a welding job, for example. These jobs were paying very well, but they were out of the reach of a lot of kids.

So they started the Justamere Foundation as a way of being the bridge that helps people get over whatever those obstacles are and into a more self-sustaining income as a young adult.

The foundation focuses on…
…programs that aren’t necessarily well-funded through government. We like the flexibility of being able to do those things that others are restricted from doing.

Right now we have…
… three main areas of support: Employment opportunities. Veteran programs. And childhood literacy, which is a great indicator of someone’s success later on in life.

One literacy program we support and particularly love…
…is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. First of all, she’s a god to me, so let’s just start there [laughs]. But instead of buying rocket ships or islands or whatever, she uses her notoriety to promote childhood literacy. With her organization, any child from zero to five who signs up gets a book sent to their house once a month that is their own. So in a couple of years a kid’s going to have 24 books. Study after study has shown that the number of books in the house is a great indicator of someone’s financial success ultimately. It’s a way of broadening the horizons of those kids.

We’re finding that such small solutions…
…can result in enormous change. I have a boxful of thank you letters that we got directly from people that say things like, “I wouldn’t have been able to take this course if it wasn’t for you, and here’s how it changed my life and here’s what I’m doing now.” That’s wonderful. And you can’t quantify that. I can count them, but there’s not a matrix that says this is how much impact we’re making. It’s all anecdotal – and I’ll take it.

I came from…
…a sales background. I didn’t have any experience in nonprofits before I took this position, but I knew the family, and when they decided to do this I was available thanks to COVID. So we started it from scratch, making contact with the organizations that were doing the hard work and setting up grants for them.

Because of my background in sales, I’m not…
… a time waster. Just tell me what the problem is, show me you know what’s going on, and I will trust that you can fix it. I can talk to somebody for half an hour and get a feel if they’re going to be able to do what they want to do.

I was introduced to the Satell Institute…
…through Dan Koval, who was part of Bentley Systems’ nonprofit arm. Early on he said you should join SI, and this fall he invited me to the Private CEO Conference. I loved it. I talked to so many amazing people. We were able to make a commitment to support four nonprofit groups through Satell.

My experience at the Satell conference was amazing because…
…I was at the table for workforce development. I was sitting with some real movers and shakers – CEOs and heads of big organizations.

As we were discussing things, there were a couple of assumptions that I felt were wrong, and so I spoke up. I said in the real world, you don’t necessarily have control over whether you can take advantage of a program. If you can’t go to a program because you need a babysitter, your babysitter is your obstacle. And if you need a car to get to the program because there’s no bus that goes there, it doesn’t matter if you’re one mile or 20 miles away, you’re never going to get there.

I explained my point of view, and I was heard. I was really taken seriously by people at the highest levels. I felt so welcomed and so respected in that community, which isn’t necessarily common. It said so much to me about the organization.

In the last couple of years…
…we’ve been able to build relationships with a lot of the community colleges and some of the four-year colleges in the area, supporting programs that are ongoing. And so we’ve been able to commit to them for four years and join Satell.

The beauty of it is, they’re now accepted into the Satell Institute, too, so they get the benefit of the meetings and the contacts and the exposure.

The Justamere Foundation…
…is well-funded for the next 10 years. We’re looking to continue our level of grant-making and building those long-term relationships. And there are a lot of them, so I’m going to be busy for the next few years.

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