The Foundation

The Bainum Family Foundation was established in 1968 in the Washington, D.C., area to help students with limited financial resources continue their education after high school. This focus on college scholarships continued for 20 years until the foundation became a local sponsor of the I Have A Dream (IHAD) program in 1988. The foundation sponsored a class of 68 rising seventh-graders at Kramer Junior High School in Southeast D.C., providing a range of tutoring, educational and other supports for the students throughout their secondary school years. As a central part of this program, the foundation committed to provide funding for college once students graduated high school or received their GED certificate.

At the conclusion of the IHAD program in 1994, the foundation built on its learnings and shifted its focus to providing educational scholarships to faith-based boarding and day schools across the United States, along with tutoring, summer enrichment programs and other supports designed to help children succeed in both school and life. That program, known as Pathways to Success, ultimately provided more than $45 million in scholarships to thousands of students between 1994 and 2018. 

Several developments prompted a shift in our work. The foundation reconnected with IHAD participants in 2012, nearly 20 years after their high school graduation date, to assess the long-term impact of the program. That research helped us understand more deeply the value of reaching children at a younger age and with a more comprehensive range of support services. In addition, emerging brain science over this same period affirmed that the first three years of a child’s life represent a critical developmental window that affects long-term learning, behavior and health. A lack of adequate investments in early childhood also focused our attention in this direction. 

Based on these insights, the foundation launched a new strategic plan in 2015, focusing on Early Learning, Wrap-Around Support (including School Mental Health and Food Security) and Knowledge Building, while continuing to support our legacy work in Seventh-day Adventist education and Family Philanthropy (which supports the philanthropic efforts of the Bainum family). During this same period, the Bainum Foundation Farm was established as a separate legal entity on Virginia farmland donated to the foundation by the Bainum family. 

As that plan came to a conclusion, we embarked on strategic planning in 2020. We again built on what we had learned but also acknowledged the deep issues that were elevated and exacerbated through the triple crises of a global pandemic, the ongoing racial reckoning and widespread economic distress. 

Through a lens of racial equity, our current strategic planwhich we began implementing during our 2021–2022 fiscal year reflects: 

  • How we are continuing the journey started by our organization in 1968 — honoring the legacy of our founders while evolving to meet changing community needs 
  • Our commitment to being flexible and responsive as we engage with and support partner communities, ensuring that their needs are centered  
  • How we aim to use our power, privilege and resources differently to help all children and families thrive, while prioritizing those who are most harmed by structural racism and poverty

Our Founders

The Bainum Family Foundation was established in 1968 by Stewart Bainum Sr. and Jane Bainum. The poverty they and their families faced during the Great Depression left an indelible impact on them. In fact, Stewart Bainum was asked to leave his faith-based boarding school in Ohio prior to his senior year because he could not pay the tuition. 

With $3 in his pocket and a cardboard suitcase in his hand, he hitchhiked 400 miles to Washington, D.C., where he found work as a plumber’s assistant and earned enough to return to Ohio a year later to finish his high school education in 1938. The Bainums met while attending college in the D.C. area, were married in 1941, and then began their family and the first of many entrepreneurial ventures. 

Mr. Bainum started a plumbing and mechanical contracting business, then built a real estate development firm and founded ManorCare, a major nursing home company. In 1957, he built his first hotel and later established Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel franchising companies. The Bainums’ success in business was paralleled by a lifelong commitment to philanthropy, driven by their appreciation for the education they had received. 

Although our founders have passed away (Mr. Bainum in February 2014 and Mrs. Bainum in August 2021), their legacy lives on through the foundation and their family. Three additional generations — their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — are involved in a range of philanthropic activities that have both local and global impact. 

Learn more about our Family Philanthropy work.

Learn more about our history through this interactive timeline.