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Donor Daniels

Dr. Joseph and Shirley Daniels

Shirley Daniels grew up an only child in Rockford, Illinois, during the Great Depression. At home Shirley soaked in the wisdom of her dear grandmother Lydia, who passed away when Shirley was young. Yet she still clearly remembers her grandmother's words: "No one is better than anyone else. Always be kind. Find something good in each person. And remember to pay back life's blessings."

Meanwhile Joseph Daniels was growing up in Linden, New Jersey. He struggled to decide whether to stay in school or drop out at age 16, like many of his classmates. An observant school social worker saw potential in him. "She sent me to meet a local African American doctor, who inspired me to stay in school and become a doctor," Joseph said.

Shirley stayed true to her grandmother's words. She made a career of bringing out the good in the people she met. She worked in education and created Career Opportunities, a program to help entry-level workers reach their highest potential and help paraprofessionals and Vietnam veterans develop skills to work in social work and education. "All people should be in a place where they can be on a development ladder. I've found great satisfaction in motivating people to develop their minds," Shirley said.

Joseph dedicated his career to helping people through Christian counseling. He was very active in the civil rights movement and has written about racism and healing.

Joseph and Shirley met on a blind date through a friend who invited them to Opera Grand Rapids. They still laugh about sharing dessert that evening from the same plate. They married in 1996.

From 1990 to 1997, Shirley served on the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Board of Trustees. She became its first African American female Board chair in 1994.

Through their estate plan, Joseph and Shirley are leaving a gift to the Community Foundation. "We want to give so that the needs of the community can continue to be met. It's also satisfying for us to know that [through the endowment] the core of our gift will always be there," Shirley said.

"I want to give hope to the next generation. I want to make this a better place for them than it is now. I live by the line ‘faith for today and bright hope for tomorrow,'" Joseph said.

Smiling, and with a tear streaming down her cheek, Shirley added a simple heartfelt "Ditto."

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