CMF Editorial Correspondent
Several years ago, Dr. Madhusudana Rao Tummala was driving to work in Flint when he noticed a man standing on a street corner holding a placard. As he passed by, he glanced at the scrawled message on the sign. The words struck a deep, emotional chord within the noted radiologist, a husband and father of two children – Pradyumna and Pratyusha.
“I am a family man. I will work for food” had been written in large letters on the cardboard sign.
“That really affected me,” remembers the India-born doctor who has seen more than his fair share of the poor and destitute in his native country and even in some economically distressed cities and towns in America.
"But this man I saw was in Flint, the city that has been so good to me, and it was then I began thinking about how I needed to do something to help those here who for whatever reason didn’t have enough to support their families.”
It was at that moment that the seed of an idea to create a private charitable foundation was sown in Dr. Tummala’s mind. After a long discussion with his wife, Sabita, herself dedicated to helping others as the clinical director and family counselor for the Family Service Agency of Mid Michigan for 22 years, the pair decided to create what would become the Tummala Charitable Foundation that was officially launched in December 2006.
“I made enough to have a good living here,” says Dr. Tummala. “(Flint) has been very kind to me. So I thought I should do something for the community. I wanted to help the less fortunate and to lift our community.”
Sabita, who now serves as secretary of the foundation, says her experiences in social services educated her to the serious needs facing families throughout the Flint area.
“I saw a huge need for the families of the working poor,” says Sabita. “I knew this is where our focus should be.”
Combining their ideas, the philanthropic couple decided their foundation would make grants to support initiatives and projects dedicated to providing those economically challenged families with medicine, affordable housing, assist them in paying their utilities and helping offset educational costs for their children.
“There are many families that just need some assistance, especially during the last several years,” says Dr. Tummala, noting how the economic downturn has so severely affected his adopted home city.
“This is what I wanted our foundation to do, to provide hope and help to our community…and we are doing it now. I am very grateful that we are in a position to now give back.”
Helping educate them to the best practices in philanthropy – and provide them ideas and guidance on how to create a foundation that is both impactful and responsible – is the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF), say the two new members.
“That is why we decided to join,” says Dr. Tummala. “We can learn from others (foundation leaders) and share what we do.”
Sabita is equally effusive in her desire to continue learning more through CMF about ways the foundation can grow and become an important resource to the Flint community and its families.
“(CMF) is there to answer our questions and work with us as our foundation moves forward,” she says. “It is good to know there are people who have been doing this (philanthropic) work and can share (their stories and ideas) with us. That is very helpful.”