A life in philanthropy: Jacqueline Avant, philanthropist, dies at 53

By AMBER THOMPSON, CPIC President and CEO Montgomery County Police (MCP) Police arrested and charged a suspect in the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant in North Philadelphia in December, on Monday, January 7, 2018,…

A life in philanthropy: Jacqueline Avant, philanthropist, dies at 53

By AMBER THOMPSON, CPIC President and CEO

Montgomery County Police (MCP)

Police arrested and charged a suspect in the fatal shooting of Jacqueline Avant in North Philadelphia in December, on Monday, January 7, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m.

Avant, an accomplished philanthropist and former chief executive officer of The Leonardo Avant Foundation, was involved in an altercation in the sixth floor hallway of the Cherry Street Apartments located in the 6900 block of Cherry Street, located in Philadelphia, Pa., when she was fatally shot. Police allege Maurice B. McMillion, 27, of Division Street in Philadelphia, was involved in the incident and also has been charged with one count of criminal homicide and one count of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person in connection with the incident.

Avant was engaged in the Cherry Street Neighborhood Advisory Committee (CCNAC), a citizen oversight board created to improve life in the Cherry Street neighborhood.

Shortly after the shooting, representatives from the CCNAC along with community members held a news conference to discuss the incident and encourage residents to help the police in their search for the suspect.

According to police, the motive behind the shooting remains under investigation and there is no indication of a connection to the Cherry Street Neighborhood Advisory Committee.

“Mrs. Avant, although saddened by the passing of her beloved family member, remains focused on the well-being of all our neighborhoods and will continue her philanthropic work by engaging residents in dialogues about community engagement,” said Marie Meldrum, board president for The Leo Avant Foundation.

With the passion and leadership she displayed as the CEO of the Foundation, Avant served for more than ten years as the chief executive officer of The Leo Avant Foundation and was instrumental in raising more than $24 million through fundraising efforts, innovative programs and grants aimed at bringing inner city young people into a supportive environment that would facilitate college admission. Avant will be remembered for her vision and commitment to ensuring that students in communities with high college admission rates had access to private college education through the Foundation’s annual college essay contest and scholarships.

“Mrs. Avant will be remembered by a legion of supporters, friends and colleagues for her vision and philanthropic vision. She was a mentor and a guardian angel,” said Monica Montgomery, Advisory Board chair of The Leo Avant Foundation.

Mrs. Avant has been described as a visionary, civil rights leader, supporter of Philadelphia schools and arts community. She was a founder of the League of Women Voters, and was the vice president of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and president of National African American Party. Avant also made a significant impact on increasing the amount of minority- and woman-owned businesses and manufacturing jobs throughout Philadelphia, including using her fundraising power to form a federation of minority businesses to combat discrimination.

After serving as director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, she was appointed by Governor Ed Rendell as a council member of the County Commissioners of Philadelphia. In 2009, she was reappointed by Governor Corbett to the Montgomery County Commissioners for another term. In February, she received the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Award and the Monroe County Human Rights Award. In recognition of her many accomplishments, she was given the title of Philadelphia’s first “first lady” for partnerships among minorities.

In honor of her work with Philadelphia’s children, she founded “Operation Bathing Place,” a tutoring program that has served nearly 1,200 students.

Leave a Comment