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GLADYS TURNER FINNEY:
A Lifelong Commitment to Advocacy
Born in Arkansas, Gladys Turner Finney’s parents raised her as a Baptist, but enrolled her in Catholic school to give her a religious education. “The nuns always made us feel we were worthy children of God, which my parents also told me,” she said. “But in the context then of the South’s caste system, hearing this from people of another race had a great impact on my early aspirations.”
Her father had just a fourth-grade education, and her mother, a seventh, but they made sure Gladys had the best possible education. Eventually she made her way to Dayton for her first job after graduate school in social work. “I thought I was just passing through, but I fell in love with Dayton and stayed.”
When she recalls her life, it’s evident that everything revolves around her lifelong advocacy of people, especially those in need and those to whom an injustice has been done.
“Coming out of the Jim Crow South,” she said, “I came to believe that people I knew needed an advocate to speak up for them, which is how I chose social work. It focuses on the dignity and worth of all people and advocates on their behalf to help them change their conditions and their lives.”
“You can start small, and as your blessings and means increase, you can grow your giving,” said Gladys Turner Finney, a Dayton Foundation donor and 2011-2012 “I Believe!” Partner.
A retired social worker, her long career included serving as director of Social Work for then-Children’s Medical Center. Her belief in the power of education and social work brought her in 1998 to establish at The Dayton Foundation a scholarship fund that already has assisted 11 promising Wright State University social work students. “I hope to inspire them to go on for master’s degrees and to help prepare the next generation of social workers to be advocates for people.”
“I always wanted to leave a legacy of faith out of gratitude for the blessings I’ve received from God, my parents and others,” she said. In 2002 she established the Willis and Mary Bluford Turner Memorial Fund to honor the values her parents taught her around peace and justice.
“They gave me the great gifts of love and education,” she said. “I can’t repay that debt, but I can encourage others to support love, peace and justice in the world.”
“The Dayton Foundation and its African-American Community Fund are showing the community the inclusiveness of philanthropy, that it is not just for rich people, but for all of us at every level,” she said. “They’re teaching us that we all can give and collectively make a difference. Giving is symbolic of love. You can start small, and as your blessings and means increase, you can grow your giving. Start where you are. For so many people, all they need is a little help, a little encouragement. With that help, they can go on to do remarkable things.”
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IN HIS WORDS
“Towards the end of Cindy’s life, she asked me, ‘After I’m gone, what will there be to say that I was here?’ Establishing this fund was her way to continue reaching out and touching children’s lives, as she did throughout her lifetime.” – John Edgar, donor, on the Remar Family and John and Cindy Edgar Endowment Fund