Oakwood residents Ann and Charles Simms believe that solid foundations are centered on faith, family and education — and that everyone deserves a place to call home.
For nearly 40 years, through land development and residential construction, Charles Simms, a fifth-generation Daytonian, built hundreds of single-family homes, condominiums and apartment communities in Greater Dayton. In retirement, he and his wife are helping others secure affordable housing through their work with Dayton Ohio Habitat for Humanity and funding faith based community outreach programs through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakwood, where they have worshipped for over 50 years. These are among many organizations they have supported with their Dayton Foundation funds.
Q. What inspires you about the Greater Dayton community?
A. We are lifelong Dayton residents, and our hearts and souls are in this community. Dayton is a great place to earn a living, no matter what your profession. Plus, we’re in such close proximity to so many amenities, including world-class arts organizations, great park systems and educational institutions, but Dayton still has a small town feel. We love this community, and so does our family. Three of our four children have remained in the area, and our son, Charles H. Simms, took over the family business when I retired. We’re so proud of him and the work that he’s doing for the Dayton community.
Q. When did you first develop an interest in Habitat for Humanity?
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A. Our interest started about 30 years ago when Ann first started volunteering on the board for the local Habitat chapter. At that time the organization was renting a small room in the basement of a local church. We helped raise the money to build a headquarters downtown – a big step up from renting a room. Ann also volunteered for the Women’s Build, a Habitat program in Florida, and brought the idea to Dayton where it still continues. We’ve enjoyed not just helping at an advisory level but also working side-by-side with the homeowners pounding nails. It’s an incredible feeling seeing the expressions on the families’ faces when they receive the keys to their new homes. People often focus on the fact that we are building homes, but really what we are doing is helping families. It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out.
Q. You also have a passion for education. Tell us about it.
A. Education is a big part of our families. If you want to succeed, you have to have some education, whether it’s a high school diploma, college degree or specialized training. We’ve been a part of two funds through The Dayton Foundation that assist students with college expenses. One fund that we helped establish is through the Oakwood Schools Foundation of The Dayton Foundation, as Ann and I both Oakwood graduates. We also created a scholarship fund in memory of my father, William Alexander Simms. He was a nationally recognized land developer and home builder. His fund provides scholarships for students of the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Dayton School of Business. Each year we meet with the scholarship recipient, and it’s been a very enjoyable experience.
We’ve worked hard, but we’ve also been blessed. Our scholarship funds help us provide an education to students who haven’t had the opportunities that we’ve had.
Q. How does The Dayton Foundation help you help others?
A. The Dayton Foundation makes giving so easy, and they handle and invest our charitable dollars very well. The Foundation is a valuable tool for our charitable giving. We read about what the Foundation promotes in their newsletters and often support those causes. The Foundation also is a catalyst for bringing people together and making a big impact on our community.
Q. What advice can you share about giving?
A. It isn’t about how much money you give, but about how committed you are to making charitable giving a part of your life, which is what we’ve tried to do. We want to make the Dayton region viable and maintain the beauty we’ve come to love. Sharing with others doesn’t mean only money. You can give your time as well. If everyone does just a little bit, Dayton will continue to grow and prosper for future generations.
Q. How would you complete this sentence, “Our giving makes us feel …”
A. Great! If we help just one family through our support for Habitat for Humanity, one student through our scholarship funds, or one person to get their life back on track, then we know we’ve made a difference.
The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit www.daytonfoundation.org.