Puerto Rico native Jose “Rafi” Rodriguez believes in giving a voice to the voiceless. After retiring in 2004 as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force following 26 years of distinguished service, Rafi and his wife, Nidy, chose to stay in Dayton to raise their two children.
In retirement, he began working as a financial advisor, establishing Rodriguez Financial Services in 2009. Through his work with the Dayton Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Minority Advisory Council, as well as his Dayton Foundation charitable funds, he has dedicated himself to ensuring that minorities have opportunities to thrive in our region and across Ohio.
Q: What inspires you about this community?
A: What inspires me about this community is how welcoming people are, especially to active duty military and retirees. I also am very impressed with the amount of generosity and caring there is for the many causes that impact our community — whether it be donating to food banks, children’s welfare, health and wellness or cancer research.
Q: Who has influenced your desire to give both your time and dollars to charity?
A: My parents were the most influential people in my life. As a child, my dad and mom supported many causes through the church, as well as social and charitable organizations. I was most impressed with how my dad helped the poor and less fortunate kids in the community. He ensured my twin brother and I had many opportunities to help them as well. I also was involved in many activities to help the less fortunate through the Catholic school I attended. For example, while in grade school and high school, we conducted a food drive during Thanksgiving and provided full meals to families in a disadvantaged community in the poorest area in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was moved by the impact we made on those families.
Q: Why is helping others so important to you?
A: To me, helping others in need is a social and moral responsibility. I feel a sense of fulfillment that my life has a special meaning when I help others. I give my time, talent and resources, to pay it forward for all the blessings I have received.
Q: You have been a strong advocate for minority inclusion. Tell us about some of the efforts you’ve been involved with, and how this work helps to create a more vibrant community.
A: Since I retired from active duty in the Air Force and started my career as a financial advisor, I have been involved in advocating for Hispanic business owners in Ohio. Through my work with the Dayton Hispanic Chamber and the Ohio Minority Advisory Council, I have promoted workshops about gaining access to capital and helped create opportunities for minority-owned businesses to compete for Ohio agencies contracts and corporations throughout the state. Now Hispanic business owners have better access to opportunities that will help them be more prosperous and get the Ohio economy get back on track.
I also promote diversity and inclusion through my participation on several Boards of Directors, such as the United Way of Greater Dayton, Air Camp USA, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and Kiwanis of Beavercreek. Through my participation on these boards, I provide a voice to a community that may be underserved or may not be fully aware of the benefits these organizations offer. I become a bridge between the services available from these organizations and the Hispanic community in the Greater Dayton area.
Q: How did you learn about The Dayton Foundation?
A: I learned about The Dayton Foundation through my role as a financial advisor and as former president of the Dayton Hispanic Chamber. When the time came, The Dayton Foundation staff walked me through creating my scholarship. It was a remarkable experience to see my scholarship become a reality.
Q: Your Dayton Foundation funds help you to help the local Hispanic population, correct?
A: Yes. The Dayton Foundation helped me establish the Rafi Rodriguez-Samalot Scholarship Fund in 2015. The fund will award scholarships to Hispanic and Non-Hispanic students pursuing an education in engineering, finance, or special education.
I also have a Charitable Checking AccountSM through The Dayton Foundation that I use to direct funds to Wright State University to aid a student in fulfilling their academic degree. I also recommended the Service to the Dayton Hispanic Chamber so that they also can help the many organizations in Dayton that support the Hispanic community.
Q: As a financial advisor, what advice do you give to others about giving?
A: I always recommend that my clients include philanthropy as part of their budget and estate plan, not only for the potential tax benefits, but for reasons that touch their hearts and are important to them.
Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
A: … fulfilled.
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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.