R. Matthew Simon, Helen V. Brach Foundation

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Animal welfare, arts, youth services, environment, homelessness, secondary education, higher education, and human services

CONTACT: msimon@clgchicago.org, 312-372-4417 

IP TAKE: Simon is a devout Catholic and a supporter of Catholic education. As president of the Helen V. Brach Foundation, he has ensured that a good portion of the grantmaking budget goes to Catholic charities and schools, hence Catholic charities that serve children have the best chance at Brach grants.

PROFILE: Of all the philanthropic foundations in Chicago, the Helen V. Brach Foundation is one of the least transparent. The foundation doesn't have a website and its president, R. Matthew Simon, keeps an impressively low profile. That tenor is in line with the life of Helen Brach herself. She started the foundation after her candy company-owning husband died as a means to support causes for children and animals. Following her mysterious disappearance in 1977 and "legally dead" declaration in 1984, the Simon brothers, Raymond and R. Matthew, stepped in to take charge.

In addition to his role at the Helen V. Brach Foundation, Simon has practiced law for more than 25 years with Chicago law firm of Simon & Griseta. He's been involved with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for more than 13 years, serving as both a member of the civil service board and as its chairman. He's also been a member of the Illinois Supreme Court's Character and Fitness Committee, which certifies candidates wanting to be admitted to the Illinois Bar to practice law.

Over the years, Simon has been noticeably involved in the Catholic faith as well. In 2011, he was awarded Saint Ignatius College Prep's Dei Gloriam Award for his commitment to Catholic education, promotion of social justice through the Brach Foundation, and continuing support of his alma mater, Saint Ignatius. He also serves as 1st vice president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago and is on the board of trustees for Dominican University. He's a family man who lives in Chicago with his wife, Jacqueline. He has four children, who are products of a Catholic education as well.

While this gives us a better understanding of Simon's character and devotions, little has been be revealed about Helen Brach's disappearance or how her legacy foundation operates today. The foundation's charter requires it to operate for the sake of charitable causes related to education, religion, science, the prevention of cruelty to animals and children, and promotion of the arts. Those are really broad focus areas for a staff of less than five.

Neither Simon nor anyone from the Brach staff has made public statements about the foundation's grantmaking, and Simon has remained humbly silent about the causes it supports around the city. It seems that Chicago is, and always will be, the geographic focus of the foundation, although a few suburbs receive grants here and there. The foundation does not employ program officers who are specialists in their fields, so you'll need to contact Simon directly to introduce yourself and start getting involved with foundation.