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GC presents the Golden Crescent's Top 5 Philanthropists

By Trysta Eakin
Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 a.m.


What's next:

Check out the January/February issue for a look at GC's Top 5 Bachelors and Bachelorettes. GC is now accepting nominations for the March/April issue's Top 5 Doctors. To participate, write a letter (not more than one page) detailing why your nominee should be chosen and e-mail it to gc@vicad.com or mail to:

Trysta Eakin

GC's Top Five Doctors

Victoria Advocate

311 East Constitution

Victoria, TX 77901

All nominations must include the nominee's name, business name or occupation, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Also, include your complete contact information.

Deadline is Jan. 19.

Providing the resources to keep many community organizations alive, area philanthropists are considered an integral part of the region. These five represent all those who give back, allowing us the tools to help others across the Golden Crescent.

Dr. Bruce M. Bauknight

Nominated by: Hospice of South Texas

Family: Wife of 46 years (and his childhood sweetheart), Vicki; daughters Julie, 42, Jenny, 36, and Jill, 35; son Jeffrey, 41; along with 12 grandchildren

Background: A semi-retired physician, Bauknight has held many positions in the Victoria area medical community since opening his private practice, 1972-2008. He is the medical director for both DeTar and Triumph hospitals, and continues to interpret electrocardiograms at three area hospitals, a practice he started 38 years ago.

As chairman of the Cancer Committee at Citizens Medical Center and moderator for the CMC Tumor Board, Bauknight, 68, also volunteers his time with Hospice of South Texas and Palliative Care of South Texas. He has been a contributing medical writer for Voices United.

He serves on the boards of directors for Theatre Victoria, The Victoria College Foundation, South Texas Foundation for Nursing Excellence and the Victoria 100 Club.

He is also apart of the UHV School of Nursing Advisory Board and the Victoria Rotary Club.

In their nomination letter, Hospice of South Texas wrote this about him: "He has not only given generously of his financial resources, but more importantly has personally invested his time and talents in our community."

Charities supported (partial listing):

First United Methodist Church of Victoria, Theatre Victoria, Children's Discovery Museum, Adult Literacy Council, Victoria Public Library, Hospice of South Texas, Victoria Bach Festival, Victoria Symphony

The first charity to which I made a donation was: Polio March of Dimes during the polio epidemic in the 1950s.

My charitable contributions are important to me because: My wife and I enjoy giving back to our community. Victoria has been a great place for us to live as well as raise our family, and certainly we want the city and surrounding communities to continue to have many diverse and cultural opportunities available.

Others can get involved with their favorite charities by: Volunteering their time, donating financially as they are able, or donating goods and services. Just jump in and get involved.

I am also passionate about: I am extremely passionate about utilizing exercise as a means to prevent most of the diseases that plague our present American society. Obesity , which is the main finding that is causing a marked increase in diabetes in adults as well as in our children, can be reduced through exercise and proper diet. Also, exercise decreases heart disease, strokes, peripheral artery disease, many common cancers (breast and colon ), osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.

Commitment to exercise three to five times a week is definitely a lot less expensive than treatment for diabetes, cancer, and/or heart disease.

Penni Gietz

Nominated by: Victoria Symphony

Family: Husband of 40 years, Dr. Leonard Gietz; children Leilani Valdes, 37, James Gietz, 34, Tanya Wilkinson, 31; five grandchildren

Background: Working for a brief period as a nurse, Gietz has primarily spent her years as a devoted community volunteer. The 63-year-old was trained and educated in Ontario, Canada, before coming to the states to serve on several organizations' boards, including her first at 29 - the Victoria Symphony.

Her love of the arts and education has led her to serve on several boards. Those include the Victoria College Foundation, Trinity Episcopal School and Public Radio KVRT, along with being involved in many clubs - the Junior League, Bronte Club, Library Advisory Board, Habitat for Humanity, Food Fair, V.G.J. Medical Alliance and the Court of Six Flags.

Michelle Hall, executive director for Victoria Symphony, said Gietz is a driving force behind them.

"She shows up early to concerts to help take up tickets and usher and stays late to help with clean up. There is not task too great or too small for Penni to undertake."

Charities supported (partial listing): Victoria Symphony, Trinity Episcopal School and Church, Victoria College, University of Houston-Victoria, Bach Festival, Habitat for Humanity, Victoria Ballet Theatre, and CASA of the Golden Crescent

The first charity to which I made a donation was: When I was 11 years old, I raised money for the veterans and other organizations in Canada.

My charitable contributions are important to me because: I like the feeling of giving to the community and making it a better place.

Others can get involved with their favorite charities by: Giving of themselves. Especially in today's economy, people make the mistake of thinking they have nothing to give. Financial gifts are important, but equally important is the gift of your time, expertise and talents. Volunteering, serving on boards, rallying your friends and neighbors. All of these are truly gifts.

I am also passionate about: I believe education and the arts go hand-in-hand; the biggest mistake we make as a society is cutting art programs first. Exposure to the arts gives young people the opportunity to experiment and experience creative expression to become citizens of the world. I believe these experiences help our children develop into more appreciative individuals and help minimize negative behaviors like bullying.

John Griffin and Lynn Knaupp

Nominated by: Victoria Bach Festival

Family: The pair have been married for 26 years and have three children: Cora Griffin, 22; Ruth Griffin, 20; Sarah Griffin, 20

Background: John and Lynn have been practicing law in Victoria since 1983. Currently at the firm Marek, Griffin & Knaupp, John as managing partner and Lynn as partner, the couple also spend much of their time giving back to the community.

Both have been president of the Victoria Bach Festival at different times, as well as serving on various committees for the First United Methodist Church and others throughout the community.

Lynn, 53, has been on the boards for YMCA of the Golden Crescent, Palmer Drug Abuse, Victoria Preservation, Inc. and the State Bar of Texas Grievance Committee.

John, 54, has served on boards with Victoria County Democratic Party, American Diabetes Association, Victoria Fine Arts Association and the DeTar Hospital Ethics Committee.

Charities supported (partial listing): American Diabetes Association, Victoria Bach Festival Association, YMCA of the Golden Crescent, First United Methodist Church, Victoria, Victoria Regional Museum Association, Victoria Preservation Inc., Victoria Symphony and Victoria Performing Arts Center

The first charity to which we made a donation was: John: First Baptist Church, Port Lavaca

Our charitable contributions are important to us because: They improve the lives of those they touch, and achieve concrete results. They help connect us to others in the world who are not as well off as we are. They are important to our faith, and to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. They help build new friendships that cross generational, religious, political and ethnic lines. The joy resulting from working with good nonprofit organizations exceeds what we put into them.

Others can get involved with their favorite charities by: Volunteering in some way with their favorite non profits. Talking to those (like Lynn and me) whose lives have been enriched by volunteering with nonprofits. Focusing on a family member who has a chronic medical condition, and volunteering for a nonprofit battling that disease or condition. Signing up as an advocate for a favorite nonprofit.

We are also passionate about: Bringing us closer to a world without diabetes.

Ensuring that workers are judged on their ability to do the job and not the diseases they live with.

Human rights and the need for all people to protect the rights of others who are different from us.

Religious reconciliation among faiths in order to reduce hatred and distrust among people.

Civil discourse about politics, faith and government, with a genuine respect for each person's dignity, regardless of his or her views.

Learning how to have the courage to take risks to help others.

Robby and Tami Burdge

Nominated by: St. Joseph High School

Family: Married for 28 years; daughter, Casey Burdge Straudt, 22, married to Caleb Staudt; son, Connor, 12

Background: Owners of Victoria-based company klean corp international, Robby and Tami Burdge use a lot of time and resources to give back to the community. Serving several community organizations as donors and volunteers, the Burdges also inspire and encourage philanthropic enterprise in their klean corp family.

Tami, 46, co-chairs the St. Joseph High School Jubilee, along with its annual fund and capital campaign. She also serves as the Our Lady of Victory fundraiser chair.

Robby, 48, has been a chairman on the St. Joseph High School board, a trustee of Victoria College, commissioner of the Port of Victoria, president of Perpetual Help Home and president of United Way.

The pair volunteers with numerous other organizations as well.

St. Joseph High School president, William H. McArdle Jr., used this quote to describe the Burdges' generosity and the attributes they've successfully passed on to their children:

"You can use most any measure when speaking of success. Some measure by the size of their house or the net worth of their portfolio. However, the measure of real success is one you cannot spend. It's the way your child describes you when talking to a friend." - Author unknown

Charities supported (partial listing):

Perpetual Help Home, St. Joseph High School, United Way, OLV School, Victoria College, UH-Victoria, Habitat for Humanity, Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and Hospice of South Texas

The first charity to which we made a donation was:

Tami: First one I remember was MDA because of my cousin, Trey Reeder, who suffers from MDA. Charity begins at home. I was able to see at an early age what impact giving has on those in need. It allowed me to see that people give to people because of what's in their heart not their wallet.

Robby: First one I remember was my sister Tena. While not a charity - she was to me - we came from an extremely meager upbringing. She was putting herself through college and I would send her my money from my paper routes as a young boy. It wasn't much, but it was all I had. Her appreciation lives on to this day and it taught me giving is not about what you have to give but what are you willing to give.

Our charitable contributions are important to us because:

Tami: There are so many people who are not as fortunate and blessed as we are. We have an expectation to be the best stewards we can of God's blessing. Some people just need that one bit of help to totally turn their life, and their family's life, around. We receive far more blessings from giving than everyone could measure or imagine.

Robby: Our charitable contributions are important to us because we sincerely believe we have a God-directed responsibility to be the best stewards we can with the blessings God provides. We pinch ourselves daily knowing we may impact a life or lives. The responsibility of stewardship is an immeasurable blessing with constant lessons in humility. It's humbly embarrassing, yet extremely rewarding.

Others can get involved with their favorite charities by: Choosing what they are passionate about. Following their heart and be charitable with time, talents and treasures - they are all equally important. Contact United Way and/or the countless organizations in need and simply say, "I want to help impact lives. How can I be most helpful?" Trust us, there is much to do.

We are also passionate about:

Tami: Spending time with family and friends. Traveling to experience how others live. Renovating houses.

Robby: "God, Family, Team & Me," the entire klean corp family, community service and cooking, cooking, and eating.

Claud Jacobs

Nominated by: D'Cater Joseph

Family: Wife of 46 years, Mary Virginia Jacobs, son, Patrick Todd Jacobs, 44; daughter, Tonya Ann Jacobs Balchan, 42

Background: A partner with LodeStone Group since 1998, Jacobs has more than 35 years experience in the finance industry.

The director and co-founder of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, he has also founded and chaired the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament.

Jacobs has also served on boards for the Victoria Symphony (presently), chambers of commerce for Victoria and Yoakum, Diocese of Victoria Endowment Board, Victoria Country Club, Cultural Council of Victoria and more.

This University of Texas graduate has helped to organize the Charity Concert Series, City of Victoria Golf Championship 2007 and the Victoria chapter of Mended Hearts.

"The work he does is not borne of self-aggrandizement, but rather a genuine need to have a positive impact on the lives he touches. And if you've ever been touched by Claud, your life has surely been changed," writes his colleague D'Cater Joseph.

Charities supported: Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, along with several others involving the betterment of children and young adults

The first charity to which I made a donation was: There was no cash, just time. At age 8 or 9, I milked a cow and fed chickens for a neighbor who was sick. Mother and Father taught me to help others in need and to support your community.

My charitable contributions are important to me because: Most contributions I can see results - such as BYR with its scholarships and local programs. You always get back way more than you give in some way - people you meet, lifelong friendships - and it seems the more you give, the more the good Lord blesses you.

Others can get involved with their favorite charities by: Many say they don't have the money to donate, but donation of time is just as important. Every organization needs volunteers - just ask. You can make a real difference.

I am also passionate about: Community service: If everyone would do just one thing to improve our city, it would be a better place for all. We must look at what is right, not just what's popular or what's the best me. Everybody has an hour or two a week they could volunteer.

Education: We must educate our children if the U.S. wants to continue to be a world leader. Make sure our Victoria has a four-year destination university, and Victoria College continues to supply our needs for industry growth.

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