ACT Celebrates 20 Years of Giving

Community trust continues support for local nonprofits.

 “ACT has become the best public-private partnership that has ever existed in this community.” 

— Former Deputy City Manager Debra Collins


It was just over 20 years ago when a small group of Alexandrians came together to decide how best to stimulate philanthropic giving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in the community. One of several catalysts was the availability of an initial sum of money from the family of Norma L. Steuerle, a long-time Alexandria resident killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

With Steuerle’s husband Gene and daughters Lynne and Kristin leading the way, the Alexandria Community Trust was formed, initially operating as a subsidiary of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region before becoming its own entity in 2004. Now known as ACT for Alexandria, the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary June 8 with a reception at Canal Center Plaza.

“Twenty years ago there was a tragedy and a family that wanted to give that tragedy purpose,” said former Deputy City Manager Debra Collins, who was part of the early establishment of ACT. “That was how ACT was born and it has become the best public private-partnership that has ever existed in this community.”

City and elected officials were on hand for the celebration, including Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-5), former City Manager Mark Jinks, Councilmembers Sarah Bagley, Kirk McPike and Vice Mayor Amy Jackson.

“ACT is the foundation of this community,” said Jackson, who read a proclamation recognizing the organization’s 20th anniversary. “When I was on the Commission for Women, it was through ACT that used seed money to bolster the Vola Lawson Breast Cancer Fund that provides mammograms for the most at-risk and vulnerable women in our community.”

The initial seed money for ACT came from the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund paid to the Steuerle family.

“Our daughters always said that they’d rather remember their mother for how she lived not how she died,” Gene Steuerle said when ACT was in its infancy. 

Working with city leaders ACT worked to fill in where government could not.

“Government can only go so far,” Collins said. “ACT was that entity that came in as a partner that was more nimble and able to color outside the lines of bureaucracy. Twenty years ago we had a resource, a seed to grow an idea, a fantastic idea, that focused on this community.”

Jackson praised the organization for its relief efforts during the pandemic.

“One thing in the last few years that has been absolutely vital to the city is ACT raising about $10 million in grant money for our pandemic uses,” Jackson said. “This allowed organizations to continue doing what they were doing through human services and making sure everyone could get through the pandemic safely and securely.”

For the last 13 years, ACT has spearheaded Spring2Action, a community-wide day of giving that raised just under $3 million for 188 local nonprofit organizations in 2024.

“ACT has been the keystone to making a difference in this community,” said Collins, adding with a laugh, “I am one of the dinosaurs that roamed the earth back then but thank God I am able to be here and see this today.”