DARCY ALKUS-BARROW AND her husband, Christopher, are devoted to helping others. They have integrated their business and philanthropy, while also overcoming their own personal struggles. Darcy and Christopher are co-founders and co-managing partners of Foundation Homes Property Management in Kentfield, a residential, single-family/long-term home rental business. She also serves on the board of the Marin Foster Care Association and writes for the local nonprofit magazine The Crier. Now the couple is taking their vision even further, launching the LifeBoost Charity Fund, a nonprofit helping at-risk teenagers.
Why did you decide to start LifeBoost Charity Fund?
The original concept for LifeBoost came when we launched our [home rental] company in 2010. Starting a company was more complicated than we originally anticipated, so nonprofit sat on the back burner for almost nine years, during which time our lives dramatically evolved. We matured as adults. We matured as business owners and entrepreneurs. But the most dramatic change was having our first child. While we’d always cared about the welfare of children, having our own suddenly brought these causes forward. The reinvented plan for LifeBoost is the perfect culmination of our lives. It brings together our personal philanthropic drivers, some of our harder real-life experiences, while leveraging our individual strengths and the capabilities of our network of other entrepreneurs and self-made business- people. The LifeBoost mission is to provide a unique coaching program for at-risk teenage boys who lack a positive father figure, teaching them in four core areas of their lives: fitness, finance, focus and family. We want to combine personal coaching, physical training and guest mentors/speakers to help prevent the cycle of violence, drug use, incarceration and homelessness.
Tell us about your experience working with the Marin Foster Care Association — did this involvement have anything to do with your own decision to adopt a child?
Christopher and I initially became aware of the needs of foster children as we went through our infertility journey. The more we learned what innocent children face right here in Marin, the less we could look away. There are always between 70 and 100 foster children in care here, age newborn to young adult, yet some 30 percent of these kids are placed out of county due to a shortage of homes. What started as a desire to have our company help turned into a position on the board at Marin Foster Care Association. In turn, that started the process for us to become a licensed foster family. Then, we got a text in the middle of the night from a birth mother that changed everything: suddenly, we were gratefully welcoming a sweet baby boy into our lives.
How did your husband’s struggle with cancer influence your path?
We were in our 20s when he was first diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. Fighting cancer taught us one thing for sure: there is no giving up. You just keep going no matter what, even when you get that call that it has returned (he’s more than 10 years clear now). Christopher is now on the board at a new nonprofit, Cleaning4Kids.org, which provides organic house cleaning for families whose children are undergoing chemo.
Has it been challenging being a company founder, charity board member and mother?
If the areas did not intersect, I don’t think I could do it. I make sure the additional roles that I undertake are synergistic. I leverage my company’s position in the community to help advance the causes I work with, while providing an outlet for our clients who wish to give back. For example, I chair the Dance-a-Thon spring fundraiser for Marin Foster Care and our network raised thousands of dollars. I also recently volunteered to consult for Adopt A Family of Marin.
Do you have any advice for those looking to combine entrepreneurial ambitions and philanthropic passion?
The news that we see every day can be so disheartening. It can make you feel powerless, until you realize that while you can’t save everyone, you can make a difference in the life of one person. Or two. Or maybe more. I’ve realized that many people want to help; they just don’t always know how. But as entrepreneurs, we’re in a place to make it possible and leverage our network to make the biggest contribution. Many people often want to do something more tangible than just write a check. Using your physical business address to host drives or drop-off events is a great way to start. We’ve done food drives, diaper drives, holiday gift drives, back packs, clothing drives — at one point our office conference room was full of hundreds of stuffed animals. Making it easier for our employees to volunteer as a group is another way. Then when you feel inspiration hit in one of those areas — as entrepreneurs always will — and you know you can make an improvement somehow in the world, you’ll know when you’ve found your calling.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Family Ties”.