“In anticipation of our trip, I communicated with Ranji Chara, the founder of the Ebenezer Child Care Trust (ECCT), to determine the needs of the school and orphanage. Socks and educational materials were top on her list.” — Massachusetts teen Alexandra Chistolini, reflecting on her upcoming visit to the Ebenezer Orphanage in Livingstone, Zambia in 2007.
Such was the genesis of the U.S.-based Ebenezer Foundation, Inc., an IRS 501(c)3 not-for-profit foundation, founded by Alexandra.
Alexandra mobilized her classmates, neighbors and family members and had to add more than 700 pairs of socks and a multitude of educational materials to her luggage for the trip. While working at the Ebenezer orphanage, Alexandra learned from Ranji that a major stumbling block for fundraising in the United States was the lack of an IRS-approved non-profit that could accept tax-deductible donations from Americans.
Immediately she worked with her parents, attorneys Marilyn Gardner and John Chistolini to establish the Ebenezer Foundation to facilitate raising critically needed funds in the United States and provide them to the Ebenezer Child Care Trust in Zambia.
One of Alexandra’s aspirations in setting up the Foundation was that 100 percent of donations would go to the operation of the Ebenezer school and orphanage. This objective is still being met by the Foundation today. All administrative costs are covered by members of the Foundation’s board of directors.
Alexandra has completed a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and is pursuing a law degree. Her mother, Marilyn Gardner remains on the Ebenezer Foundation board of directors and the Chistolini family remains involved with the foundation.
And, coincidentally, last Christmas, the Ebenezer Foundation, together with fellow international donors, helped provide new socks and shoes to all the students of the ECCT school and orphanage. It is inspiring to reflect on what one compassionate and motivated teenage girl can get started!