Fall Real Estate 2000

Publication Date: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2000 & Friday, Sept. 22, 2000

Memorial gift leaves a lasting legacy Memorial gift leaves a lasting legacy (September 22, 2000)

by Carol Blitzer

Helen Low had only one major regret when she learned she had a terminal illness last year. She would not live to see her last two grandchildren graduate college.

A longtime local Realtor, she had served as president of Lytton Properties for 15 years before moving to Alain Pinel Realtors. After her death in September 1999, her colleagues at Alain Pinel decided to dedicate the proceeds from their annual white-elephant auction to a local organization with goals near and dear to her heart.

"Helen's goal in life was to educate the whole family," Bob Gerlach, manager of Alain Pinel Realtors, Palo Alto, said. "She'd be the kind of person who would always help the underdog. I loved her. She was a neat woman, very direct but with a soft side," he added.

So it was not too difficult to locate a nonprofit organization with a vision that matched Low's. The Realtors raised more than $7,000, which they presented to the Foundation for a College Education (FCE), an East Palo Alto organization founded in 1995 with the goal of increasing the number of students of color attending college.

"Our larger vision is to build the capacity of individuals who are not familiar with higher education to believe in their hearts and minds that college is a reality for their children," Stephanie Wick, executive director, said.

"For me, it's really about community change, not just service provision," she added.

Today 21 children of color are attending college, after receiving services that range from academic counseling and advising, SAT preparation and group mentoring to college tours and group cultural events. FCE has strong relationships with the Palo Alto Unified School District, working with both the Tinsley children and other students of color, and with Menlo-Atherton High School.

"We're helping them figure out how to take full advantage of the schools they attend," Wick said. "Most schools are understaffed and cannot provide this level of support."

The gift to FCE is a fitting memorial to Helen Low, who managed to help educate 10 of her 12 grandchildren, as well as serve her community--as president of the Palo Alto Board of Realtors, as an active church member and through United Way and the Community Association for Rehabilitation.

"She was a great loss to the office and to the community. She was a legend," Gerlach said.