Slain political strategist Jamie Hahn honored with launch of foundation

mhankerson@newsobserver.comOctober 26, 2013 

— When Jamie Kirk Hahn hosted her annual Christmas party, she would ask guests to bring a canned good or a nonperishable food item in place of drinks or food.

Maggie Pearce, who lived near Hahn, said that was normal for a Hahn party. Hahn would take the food and donate it to organizations in the area that needed it.

“Food and security is something that she cared very deeply about, especially with children,” Pearce said.

So it made sense that when the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation had its launch weekend, the volunteers’ day of service on Saturday centered around the Raleigh Interfaith Food Shuttle.

More than 100 volunteers worked at two locations in Raleigh to honor Hahn, who was fatally stabbed in her home in April. Volunteers, many of whom knew Hahn, helped around the food shuttle’s farm, and others helped bag and deliver food at the main building.

“She really respected the Interfaith food shelter and what they were doing,” Pearce said. “We thought it’d be a great way to honor her.”

The day of service was the second event of the foundation’s launch weekend. It began Friday night, which would have been Hahn’s 30th birthday, with a celebration in honor of Hahn’s life. After Saturday’s day of service, the foundation hosted a small concert at Lincoln Theatre.

Each event had a little bit of Hahn in it: Her birthday celebration featured her favorite music; the day of service focused on a cause she was passionate about; and the benefit concert that followed featured more of her favorite music.

Ken Lewis, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 with Hahn on his campaign team as a fundraising director, said the launch weekend was a two-fold event. He said the day of service was another way to celebrate Hahn’s life by doing the work she did, and the weekend of events was a way to officially recognize the beginning of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation.

“The goal is this foundation is to build an army of Jamies, to find those people, young and old, who have those high ideals and want to make a difference,” Lewis said. “We want to help the helpers.”

The suspect in Hahn’s slaying, Jonathan Broyhill, is in Central Prison and has been ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. He was employed by Hahn’s political consulting firm and is suspected of having embezzled funds.

Her husband, Nation Hahn, was also injured in the knife attack.

Tying Hahn’s interests together

Pearce, who is not on the foundation’s board but helped plan the launch weekend, said the foundation is still figuring out the specifics of what the foundation will do, but she knows it will involve young people in the community.

“We always say we want, in five years, for young people to know Jamie, to hear the words ‘Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation’ and know that good’s going to come of it (and) know that it’s going to impact their life in a positive way,” she said.

Lewis, the foundation’s board secretary, said it is also a way to carry on some of the beliefs Hahn had about her community.

“(Jamie) believed in the value of every person, and she believed in providing opportunity to people (and) investing in people,” he said. “She believed that we could build a society where everyone had the opportunity to realize their full potential.”

Lewis said Hahn was willing to align her life with her beliefs. She was heavily involved in local politics and had extensive professional experience in fundraising and nonprofits, which is one of the reasons Lewis made her his first hire for his campaign.

The foundation will focus on young people at first in an effort to connect people with opportunities for service. Pearce said the foundation will serve individuals and existing nonprofit groups, tying Hahn’s professional and personal passions.

“I’m still young, and (Hahn) was about 10 years older than me, so I really looked up to her ... in the way she treated others and what she did in her professional life,” Pearce said. “She was always so welcoming and kind. She was just a really good person to strive to be.”

The foundation has no immediate plans for other events, but organizers say the day of service will not be the last of the foundation’s activity.

The foundation has been collecting donations since it formed, and after Friday night’s birthday celebration $220,000 had been raised to help the foundation’s launch.

“There are no limits on what this can accomplish,” Lewis said. “Jamie believed that every single individual can make a difference and that if people work with the intention of making a difference, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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