Billie Howland Steffee
The fund that Billie Howland Steffee created bears her name, but it also could be known simply as “The Fearless Fund.”
“We’ve been able to step up,” she said. “The wrong road for someone else might be just the right road for us.”
Most often, the road leads to helping children of all ages.
“We’ve done a little of this and a little of that, but we’ve basically centered on children and the special challenges that they present not only to themselves, but to their parents and the community. Children get to be older children very quickly,” she said.
“The wrong road for someone else might be just the right road for us.”
The Billie Howland Steffee Family Fund was created in 1998 as a supporting organization of the Cleveland Foundation, and she says, “In the beginning, we were a supporting organization that wasn’t the least bit afraid to dip into principal if we needed to do that.” Since its creation, the fund has made grants to a wide range of organizations, but especially those focused on helping little kids and big kids.
There have been grants to assist children with autism, to further childhood development, to fight the influence of gangs on urban youth, and to create supportive homes for adults with developmental disabilities.
The Innovative Independent Living Project received the fund’s enthusiastic support. The project, administered by LEAP (Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential), uses technology such as video monitoring, customized training, and support to allow adults with developmental disabilities to live on their own.
“It just makes your heart sing because, what a worry for parents who are older, who are facing retirement or are retired, who have adult children who absolutely cannot take care of themselves,” Billie said. “And then what are you going to do? That’s one of the biggest worries.”
These are but a few of the many examples of Billie’s philanthropic spirit that prompted the Cleveland Foundation to honor her with its 2011 Frederick Harris Goff Philanthropic Leadership Award, which is bestowed on those whose dedication to the community and belief in the power of philanthropy have made and will continue to make a difference in the lives of Greater Clevelanders.
Love of animals
Billie operates Craighead Farm in Novelty, only the fourth property owner since the home was built in 1837. She raises horses there and takes great pride in them.
She combines her love of animals in many of the philanthropic projects she supports, including the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo that carries the name of her late daughter.
“It just makes your heart sing … .”
Hiram House Camp’s Summer Farmstead program gives children the opportunity to learn about barnyard animals and sustainable agriculture. It benefited from a grant to build Double H Ranch, a 1,200 square-foot structure housing young farm animals and instructional space for campers and youth groups.
The Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Bainbridge Township started with one horse and an idea. It’s now one of the biggest facilities of its kind in the country, providing horse-related programs for people of all ages with disabilities.
“Some of those children, when they’re up on their own horse, it’s the first time they’ve looked an adult in the eye or looked down at an adult,” Billie said. “What an unbelievable sense of accomplishment.”