Philanthropy Runs in the Family
By Michele Graham
Photos By ChiChi Ubiña
Cricket Lockhart and Graci Djuranovic are a dynamic mother-daughter philanthropic duo. As Graci says, “My family members’ commitment to service and the community has been a consistent theme in my life.”
For Graci, this model for community involvement began when, in 7th grade, she had just moved to Greenwich and enrolled in Greenwich Academy. “My six years at Greenwich Academy empowered me in so many ways — and my education helped give me the tools to advocate for causes that I am passionate about and showed me the importance of women helping each other.”
It began right at home. Mom Cricket has a record of volunteerism that extends as far as the day is long. She’s been involved in and held leadership positions with the Junior League of Greenwich, Greenwich Academy, Green Fingers Garden Club, Breast Cancer Alliance, Greenwich Historical Society, Greenwich Hospital, Nathaniel Witherell, Greenwich Library, and the Christ Church Altar Guild.
Both women favor organizations that focus on Greenwich. These days it’s the United Way and its women’s initiative Sole Sisters, and the Bruce Museum. After moving around a lot during her childhood, Graci says Greenwich is “such a special place to me. It was the first place that ever felt like home. And the Greenwich United Way plays an important role in serving this community with its unique ‘Find it, Fund it, Fix it’ methodology. I’m always impressed by the number of people that the Greenwich United Way reaches each year and how impactful the programs are. And I’m really proud to be starting my second year as a member of the Board of Directors.”
The Lockharts’ relationship with Greenwich United Way goes back years. Cricket co-founded Sole Sisters 14 years ago. Following its inspiring mission, Women Stepping Up to Help Others Step Forward, Sole Sisters raises funds and learns about community needs and how those needs are addressed by local United Way partner agencies.
Cricket recalls the watershed moment for founding Sole Sisters. “While I was on the Greenwich United Way Board from 2001 to 03, it was decided that we should organize a fundraiser/gala for the 70th anniversary, something the Greenwich United Way had not done before because the funding came from different sources. We held “Stepping Out” at Richard’s in 2004 and it was a huge success. It was so much fun that our group of Sole Sisters decided to stay together to organize annual luncheons with wonderful speakers and boutique shopping.”
In addition, both women have participated in the United Way’s Community Investment Process, allocating months to reviewing proposals from local agencies and visiting program sites.
The two also share a love for the arts and The Bruce Museum. Cricket became involved with the Bruce volunteering for the Renaissance Ball and being on the Museum Council. In 2014, she co-chaired the “Into the Woods” Ball and hosted a “Dimensions in Dining” event at her home with husband Jim. Since then, she has been co-chair of the Development Committee and serves on the “New Bruce” Committee. “I feel strongly that the Bruce Museum is a vital part of Greenwich and will become so much more important once the ‘New Bruce’ is built. Not only will the Bruce more than double in size, it will greatly expand its educational and outreach programs and include a new art wing, lecture hall, light gallery and café! It will be sensational!” says Cricket.
Graci, who used to manage UBS’s art sponsorships in the U.S. and worked with museums, art fairs, and orchestras across the country, recalls, “When my husband [Marko] and I moved to Greenwich, it felt natural to volunteer with the Bruce Museum. I initially got involved in a number of different ways – chairing and volunteering with fundraisers, helping with the Development Committee and most recently, I helped to found Bruce Contemporaries.”
“The idea for Bruce Contemporaries started to grow after having chaired the Night at the Museum family fundraiser for two years and seeing all of the enthusiasm around that event. I saw an opportunity to engage this group and, luckily, I have a wonderful group of friends who also have had careers related to the art world and a passion for art, so we worked with the Bruce Museum to make this idea a reality.”
Bruce Contemporaries is a group of young members, ages around 25 to 45, who gain insider access to special events, networking and education. The group kicked off last August with a fundraiser at the Bruce Museum Seaside Center. A host of other fun events followed including a holiday party at the museum, a visit to the Outsider Art Fair, and an evening at the Charles Patrick art studio. Among other ideas in the works are a gallery crawl up Greenwich Avenue.
The mother of two small children, Graci’s desire to set an example for volunteerism has grown even stronger. “Growing up, it was a very normal occurrence hearing about the volunteer activities of my parents and both sets of grandparents. I didn’t understand what philanthropy was, but I understood that it was important to them and I grew to appreciate that it’s important to give back.”
Cricket talks about the generations of volunteers in her family. “My mother, mother-in law, and grandmother were all volunteers for many different organizations and loved their commitments to these organizations. It was natural for me to volunteer.”
Time and energy are precious. Cricket talks about having to make hard decisions about where she allocates these resources. “It is so easy to over-extend yourself because there are so many wonderful organizations in Greenwich. It is almost like being in a candy store! But there is only so much time in the day, so it is necessary, regrettably, to fine tune the time you spend volunteering.”
The commitment to their causes comes full circle with this year’s Sole Sisters event, which Graci is chairing. “I am so excited that we have some of my mom’s friends who helped co-found Sole Sisters 14 years ago, women who have volunteered with Sole Sisters for years, and then friends who are relatively new to the Greenwich United Way and Sole Sisters. The committee reaches across generations. I think it is going to make for a very enjoyable and successful event!”