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Donor Spotlight: Susan and Tom Handley

Throughout their lives, Susan and Tom Handley have always made it a priority to give back to others. Prior to relocating to Minnesota in 2003, they lived in Japan, Mexico and several regions across the United States. In every place they’ve lived, volunteering, charitable giving and leadership have always been a priority for Susan, Tom and their two daughters.

Upon moving to Minnesota, they were thrilled to discover that their new hometown had such a vibrant and robust philanthropic community. “Before moving here I didn’t know a lot about Minnesota and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a community this philanthropy-centric,” Tom said. “Philanthropy is really embedded here, which is such a positive thing.”

As President and Chief Operating Officer at Ecolab, Tom sees community involvement as a critical part of his leadership role. “As a corporate executive, leadership comes with a responsibility to make the community better and to help people in their time of need,” he said. “As I look to other leaders in this business community, I’m inspired and motivated that they’re leading and sharing in this commitment.”

Getting Involved and Giving Back

Once at home in Minnesota, Susan and Tom immediately got involved with issues and organizations close to their heart. The performing arts, local and global health, and programs that provide for essential needs like housing and hunger are on the top of their list.

The couple spent more than a year renovating their nationally registered historic home in St. Paul, and ever since, they’ve generously opened their doors to countless organizations—hosting events, fundraisers and gatherings in support of nonprofits in the Twin Cities. “This is a really big-hearted community, and we’re so happy to be a part of it—supporting such wonderful organizations and programs in any way that we can,” Susan said.

Making an Impact through United Way

The couple is passionate about United Way’s work in hunger. They’ve been long-time supporters of local hunger relief efforts at United Way partners like the Hallie Q. Brown center and food shelf in St. Paul, as well as others throughout the metro.

With an eye toward innovation, the couple is always interested in learning more about how programs find new ways to meet needs in the community. Susan and Tom are particularly impressed with the approach taken by programs involved in the sustainable food system work underway in North Minneapolis as part of the Full Lives project. Through this initiative residents gain greater access to affordable, healthy food and food-related jobs.

“It’s critical to meet the needs of people in our community who are facing hunger,” Susan said. “We have confidence in United Way’s scale and innovation to ensure that all people have access to healthy food and a path to thrive.”

As members of United Way’s Tocqueville Society, Susan and Tom have enjoyed connecting with others who share their community passions. “I really like Tocqueville because it stretches you to think about your responsibilities to be philanthropic,” Tom said. “You see how other people are viewing their responsibilities, which encourages you to reflect on your own.”

In supporting United Way, the couple appreciates the breadth, scale, and impact of their investment in the community. “We love United Way because you get great leverage, and you know your dollar is used smartly, thoughtfully, and effectively.”


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