By Paula Young Shelton

For this year’s August meeting, the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund Support Group celebrated Black Philanthropy Month with a dynamic speaker. Reggie Van Lee, Partner and Chief Transformation Officer of The Carlyle Group, delivered a motivating and informative address based on his lifelong commitment to philanthropic endeavors. Van Lee exemplifies the theme of the celebration: “Love in Action,” which was taken from the teachings of the late scholar-activist bell hooks who wrote about love as a necessary foundation for true social change. 

Van Lee’s impressive resume includes Senior Partner and Executive Vice President at Booz Allen, research engineer at Exxon, numerous board memberships and awards, a Master’s Degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. However, despite his many accolades, it is Van Lee’s philanthropic work that really sets him apart from so many other highly accomplished individuals. Following the example of his parents, Van Lee began charity work as a child, which grew into a deep devotion to philanthropy. Van Lee recalled his journey that began with donating clothes at church and moving on to contributing his talents to various organizations. As his career progressed, Van Lee parlayed his developing skills to the causes that he cared about. Even when he had little disposable income, he always made it a point to give to others, recognizing that there were always others in greater need. Van Lee encouraged the audience to seek out those organizations and causes that they believe in, “start with your passion,” and volunteer your time and talents by translating your skill and experiences into service. He also urged, “when you give, give until it hurts a little bit” to maximize your philanthropy. 

The Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund (TDJBCF) is one of the many worthy causes to which Van Lee has offered his strong support. Motivated by the loss of his older sister to breast cancer, Van Lee became active with TDJBCF and serves as an honorary board member. He also established a scholarship at Howard University in memory of his sister. One more example of how Van Lee has integrated philanthropy into his life as a demonstration of “Love in Action.”

The event also featured the superb vocal stylings of former Southwest resident Cecily who stunned the audience with her incredible range and original songs entitled, “Acceptance” and “Set Myself Free.” As another demonstration of “Love in Action,” TDJBCF showcased other community organizations with presentations from Dana McDaniel of GOODProjects and Paul Taylor, Executive Director of Comm-Unity Forum. The event was sponsored by CSG Urban Partners. 

In September, the monthly meeting marked special moments, including TDJBCF’s 11th anniversary and the 71st birthday of TDJBCF Founder Thelma D. Jones. The guest speaker was Dr. Vanessa B. Sheppard of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Dr. Sheppard received the American Cancer Society’s 2022 Researcher of the Year Award for her remarkable advances in cancer research. The award recognizes an investigator who, in addition to their innovative, impactful research, has benefitted from an American Cancer Society (ACS) extramural grant. ACS awarded $1.5 million to Dr. Sheppard, one of the largest investigator grants given in Virginia. To see the TDJBCF virtual September celebration, please visit

The next TDJBCF support group meeting is scheduled to be in person on  Wednesday, October 18, 2023, at 6:00 pm in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For questions about the meeting or the TDJBCF, please email, call (202) 251-1639 or visit

The TDJBCF,  founded by breast cancer survivor and Southwest DC philanthropist Thelma D. Jones, is a nonprofit grassroots organization whose mission is to advocate and improve the overall health and wellness of women and men through outreach, education, prevention and advocacy.  

Paula Young Shelton is an educator and author. She lives in Southwest DC with her husband. 

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