Over 60 Years of Philanthropy in the Fight Against Alcoholism
The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1952 by R. Brinkley Smithers in memory of his late father. The certificate of incorporation was filed in the office of the Department of State of the State of New York on October 10, 1952.
On October 23, 1952, the Foundation received from the executors of the estate of Christopher D. Smithers state and local bonds amounting to a face value of $16,000. On December 10, 1952 the Foundation received cash in the amount of $64,000 from the same source. These were the sole assets at the time.
Originally, the purpose of the Foundation was to carry on the charitable activities pursued by Mr. Christopher D. Smithers during his lifetime. However, after attending the Yale School of Alcohol Studies in 1956, R. Brinkley Smithers decided that the family charitable foundation should concentrate on alcoholism.
The Foundation received additional funds from the estate of Mrs. Christopher D. (Mabel Brinkley) Smithers in 1957.
The Smithers Foundation is neither “wet” nor “dry” and is solely concerned with alcoholism as a disease. When the Foundation made its first alcoholism grant of $1,000 to the National Committee on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) in 1955, there were almost no organizations or individuals interested in dealing with this serious, frequently fatal illness.
Over the past 58 years, the Foundation, the late R. Brinkley Smithers, and Mrs. Adele Smithers have worked tirelessly to remove the stigma attached to alcoholism and to encourage others to join in the fight and were instrumental in influencing change in attitudes, programs and policies in the areas of research, prevention, treatment and community development about this disease. While considerable progress has been made the pioneering work of the Foundation continues in the funding of and collaboration with new and innovative projects that educate and inform the public and provide help and hope in addressing problems of alcohol addiction.
In the early fifties very little help existed for alcoholics and their families other than the mutual aid programs. Though effective in helping addicted persons the problems were so great that much more was needed. Thus the role of the Smithers Foundation from 1952-1960 included:
Funding the National Committee on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) which helped establish a nationwide network of affiliates which at one point included over 200 in communities in almost every state.
Iniatiating the establishment of The New City Medical Society on Alcoholism (now the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)) with over 3,000 members all involved in treating alcoholics.
Influenced interest of corporate industry and labor giants from General Motors, Exxon, U.S. Steel and the AFL-CIO in recognizing the problems of alcoholism in the workplace and that they were treatable. This was the forerunner to Employee Assistance Programs which are a part of the labor management work force today.
Funding for research in the international community resulted in the classic publication of “The Disease Concept of Alcoholism” by E. M. Jellinek.
Began publishing its own literature which addressed many aspects of alcoholism and provided information that were direct products of its scientific community
During the next decade (1961-70), the Foundation continued its work:
Increasing its funding and collaborations in the fields of scientific and educational research with individuals and institutions as well as publications that educated and informed professionals and the community about problems with alcohol and alcohol addiction.
Gift of 10 million dollars to establish the Smithers Alcoholism Treatment and Training Center. It was the first comprehensive alcoholism unit as a part of a leading hospital that provided detox, rehab and professional training services. It was also the largest alcoholism grant ever made by an individual or organization.
This consistent funding by the Foundation as well as personal giving by Mr. Smithers to this problem paved the way for funding by other large foundations and corporations as well as the creation of a federal research institution on issues related to alcoholism. The passage of the Hughes Act sponsored by Senator Harold Hughes through the work and support of the Foundation and many others provided the legislation for The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA). This landmark policy and research initiative greatly expanded funding and increased services for alcoholics, families and communities.
Through the Foundation increased attention and collaborations were formed with the mental health community.
Increased participation in Academia
Continued publication of educational pamphlets about alcoholism.
Funded the establishment of an employment program for alcoholics in recovery (EPRA) to help them return to full employment.
Mr. Smithers believed among many things that the disease of alcohol is both respectable and treatable as well as having no boundaries for those who become addicted. As his unprecedented giving to help those in need in the decade of 1980-1989:
A major grant to support the Fellowship Center which established alcoholism education and treatment centers in New York State prisons.
6.7 million dollar gift to Cornell and Rutgers Universities to create a major institute dealing with alcoholism prevention in the workplace.
Funded a study by the Roper Organization, Inc. “A Survey of Leadership Attitudes Toward Alcoholism in the United States”. While the study revealed that denial was still a strong factor in combating this disease it did find that stigma on alcoholism had been greatly produced.
The decade ended with Mr Smithers as one of the 101 world leaders registered as a candidate for the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
Grantmaking during this period had a significant impact on youth prevention and education projects. Those included; Youth Outreach through the Alcoholism Council; collaboration with Dr. Essie Lee and Hunter College for training in prevention provided to New York City Departments of Police and Corrections, Y.M.C.A., Boys and Girls of New York City, Girl Scouts, City College of New York and the New York City Board of Education.
Other recipients included the Connetquot Central School District of Islip, NY, the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, the National Institute for the Deaf, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Center for Science in the Public Interest to support work on the impact of alcoholism advertising on children.
A major grant to the Turn Two Foundation founded by New York Yankees base ball star Derek Jeter to establish and support Jeters Leaders to promote and develop leadership, scholarship and citzenship among todays’ youth.
The decade began with the Foundation under the leadership of its president Mrs. Adele Smithers focusing on and preparing for the Foundations’ celebration of its 50th anniversary. In addition to continuing to support local organizations, NCADD and its affiliates, other groups around the country the Foundation began working with the international community through the United Nations. The Foundation was asked to participate in a conference on Info Poverty sponsored by the United Nations. The conference held a series of sessions with a host of participating delegates from developing countries. As they discussed issues related to poverty they was acknowledgement and concern by a large percentage of the delegates that alcohol abuse and alcoholism was a serious problem in their countries. In 2003 the World Health Organization declared alcoholism and alcohol abuse among the top ten health threats in the world. Thus it seemed appropriate that the Foundation in its 50th celebration gala had as its keynote speaker Antonio Maria Costa, executive director United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Equally fitting was the honoring that evening of several scientists and doctors who had and continue to make significant contributions in advancing knowledge and information about the disease of alcoholism.
In 2004 the Foundation continued its focus on alcoholism education, treatment and training programs which are designed to result in prevention. As the World Health Organization changed its position on alcoholism and alcohol abuse declaring it the number one health threat to the world. To this end the Foundation continued to fund a very innovated program the Physicians’ Alcoholism and Addiction Training Program where physicians in residency are trained utilizing a “buddy system” with recovering alcoholics in A.A. This project is proving to be very successful in the community and among AAers’. New collaborations were developed and funding given to an initiative of spouses of governors called “The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free” with programs specifically geared to the 9-12 year old.
The Foundation honored J. Edward Hill, M.D. president of the American Medical Association for courageously leading the AMA to speak out about alcohol abuse among young people.
The time between 2004 and currently the Foundation continues its work with the local, national and international community as each struggles with addressing the myriad of problems experienced by alcohol and alcoholism.