An Inside Business article by Sandra J. Pennecke
SUFFOLK — Lou and Mary Haddad have four children, now all adults, who entered their family through adoption.
“You can’t go through that process without being affected by just how many children are out there that don’t have a stable environment and tools they need to succeed,” he said. Because the couple know there are countless other children in need, they keep the focus of The Louis & Mary Haddad Foundation, founded 23 years ago, on improving the lives of disadvantaged and at-risk children.
Haddad, president and CEO of Armada Hoffler Properties in Virginia Beach, said he and his wife had a shared dream from the day they wed in 1984 to create a family foundation to help others. “It took us all the way to 1999 to scrape together enough money. The problem then was we could barely afford our rent,” he said.
“We didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” echoed Mary Haddad.
Recruited to Armada Hoffler in 1985, Haddad began his career as an on-site construction superintendent. Within two years, he was recognized for his hard work, and following several promotions, he took over the role of president of the construction company.
In 1996, he was promoted to president of the holding company, the parent of all Armada Hoffler entities, and three years later, added CEO to his title.
“I struck the jackpot twice,” Haddad said of his marriage and his career path that were established within a six-month period.
Blessed in multiple ways, the couple continue to pay it forward through their foundation, which has donated more than $1 million since its start. Haddad said the foundation offers direct support through scholarship programs for kids in need of assistance to postsecondary education.
“These are fairly small scholarships, but hopefully enough to make a difference to convince a child that there is hope out there and you can go after it and succeed,” he said.
He also said they indirectly fund organizations with innovative programs that help children faced with myriad issues — from poverty, home disruption or abuse to learning differences — all a barrier to a child’s ability to succeed in life.
The foundation has grown throughout the years in its depth and breadth, donating to an innumerable number of organizations, including most recently to the Suffolk Foundation Scholarship (for a Suffolk student with learning differences to attend school for a degree or certification); Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation Scholarship (for a student with learning differences in the art therapy and counseling master’s program); the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (Lighting the Way initiative for its mental health building); and educational grants for at-risk students to Seton Youth Shelters, Western Tidewater Free Clinic and St. Joseph’s Indian School. “Every time someone brings a new cause our way, I feel really lucky that they’ve brought it to our attention and we can do something to help,” Mary Haddad said. “There are so many excellent causes out there. And you can’t save the world, we’ve learned, but we do our best by focusing on a couple of important things.” The foundation has supported ForKids since 2014 and helped bring its annual field day to fruition for the past three years. Haddad said they believe in the mission behind the Chesapeake-based nonprofit of breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
The Haddads recently gave a personal gift for the establishment of the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial Scholarship aimed to benefit foster youth in the state. Lou Haddad said they have asked for the award to go to a foster child who has aged out of the system.
“Once they hit 18, there is no obligation, and a lot of them end up not being able to move forward in any meaningful way,” he said, stressing the intensity of the problem.
The scholarship, originally set at $100,000, was matched by the university with an additional $50,000.
The funds will provide tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and equipment necessary for enrollment.
“In a small way, we’re trying to help a person that’s really succeeded through high school and doesn’t have the means to go to UVA,” Haddad said. “Hopefully, this will give them a boost.”
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, firstname.lastname@example.org