Above: Azalea Charities contributing $20,000 to the Hylton Performing Arts Center where they acted as the Presenting Sponsor of “Celebrating Veterans and the Arts at the Hylton Center” for the fourth year.
Azalea Charities supports community causes and aids wounded warriors
By Jennifer E. Goldman
A passion for community service is what fuels Frank Lasch, Sr. and his all-volunteer organization, Azalea Charities. After serving on the boards of several local nonprofits, Lasch realized how challenging and time-consuming it was for each individual organization to fundraise.
Formed in 1997 and receiving its nonprofit status in 2000, Azalea Charities was set up to be an unofficial fundraising arm for wounded warrior and community organizations “to help them have more time for working on their programs,” said Lasch.
The idea sprouted when Lasch was approached by a faithful donor who expressed some frustration at being approached for contributions so many times throughout the year. That’s when Lasch realized it would be so much better for donors, and the community, if one organization could raise a large pot of money and divide it up among several worthy causes.
Deciding to start their new endeavor with a fall golf tournament, co-founders Lasch and Larry Pergerson, began putting a plan together. It didn’t take long for Pergerson to come up with a suggestion.
“Let’s wait until spring,” Lasch remembers his co-founder saying, “when the azaleas are in bloom.”
Not only did they decide to hold the golf tournament at a particularly pretty time of year, the founders decided to name their new organization after the colorful foundation plant; like the azalea bush, Azalea Charities enhances the landscape of the community and helps tie it together.
Over the course of the past two decades, Azalea Charities has raised more than $5 million dollars and distributed those funds to dozens of local community organizations, military groups, and even directly to individuals and families in need. Some of these beneficiaries include local Boys and Girls Clubs chapters, Special Olympics Virginia/Northern Virginia, ACTS, SERVE, Fisher Houses, and Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center; just to name a few.
Lasch is determined to see his organization raise another $5 million in a single fiscal year. Even better if they can do it before he plans to turn over the reins of Azalea Charities when he retires in five years.
Bold? Yes. Impossible? Not at all. According to Lasch, the financial resources are available in our local area. The challenge, however, is in furthering the organization’s exposure to the general public.
“Admittedly, we made a mistake early on,” explained Lasch, “we decided instead of seeking recognition for the successes we made, we would just continue doing what we do behind the scenes.”
While a noble decision to be sure, the organization is working toward stronger donor and community outreach to increase its visibility. Azalea Charities has already won the support of corporations like Battlefield Wealth Planning, Modern Technology Solutions, BB&T, Wegmans, Capitol Securities, and Engility, but is hoping to win over many more large, local businesses as well. With its wide array of beneficiaries, Azalea Charities is an easy choice for companies seeking to support local causes with corporate and employee contributions. Employers and employees alike often find it challenging to decide on just one special cause, but by donating to Azalea Charities, a business can support several local efforts in one fell swoop.
Aside from its giving campaign and the Azalea Classic golf tournament (which will be celebrating its nineteenth year next spring), the organization also raises funds through participation in the Marine Corps Marathon, the Chenega Invitational golf tournament, and unique partnerships with Dean Baer, a nationally recognized artist, and Giorgio’s, a very popular family restaurant in Montclair. Baer’s commissioned artwork can be purchased as prints or notecards on the charity’s website. Walk into to Giorgio’s Family Restaurant, order a of bottle of United Front wine and a Frank’s Azalea Super Grilled Cheese Sandwich, and you’ve just supported your community and wounded warriors.
Other than his $5 million vision, you might be wondering what else Lasch wants to see his organization accomplish before his retirement. He plans on recruiting more local youth to be involved in Azalea Charities and to further the organization’s program to provide relief to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lasch purchased cases of Josh Goldberg and Ken Falke’s book Struggle Well: Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma, with the intent of increasing awareness of PTSD by giving copies of the book away to interested individuals. His hope is that readers who recognize the struggle will come back to him with offers of assistance.
As for the area’s youth, there is always a to-do list that can provide students with hours of community service that may be required by schools or clubs. For locals who are still young (and young at heart) but no longer in school, the organization is continually in need of volunteers to help with fundraising, events, and outreach, and solid, committed board members.
Azalea Charities can be found online at AzaleaCharities.org and may be reached by emailing AzaleaCharities@aol.com.