For many, even most, people, "community" is a vague, pleasant word that's printed in big, official, meaningless letters in front of "Center" or "College" on a passing sign.
But for Virginia Dayton, "community" is a living, breathing thing - something to be nourished, cherished and challenged.
"I'd really like to build a fire under a lot of people," she says.
As a member in good, and long, standing of the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation (before that, she was a member of the hospital board), Dayton is in an excellent position to strike a match. She's also something of a human torch when it comes to generous financial support for Phoenix Children's, having given faithfully to the hospital since 1988.
Still, she wouldn't mind seeing the flames spread a little.
"It takes everybody in a community to build a community," she says. "And 'to whom much is given, much is expected.' It's an old saying, but it's true."
A resident of the Valley since 1982, Dayton brings two particular vantage points to her board work on behalf of Phoenix Children's and its patients: her career as a "stay-at-home mom" ("I'm retired, now, since my children have grown up") and her 26 years of pre-Arizona life in Minnesota. Back there, she says, folks take their philanthropy seriously.
"Anyone who's lived in Minnesota knows that philanthropy is important, in terms of both money and time, and it's expected within the community. I learned it there."
"It's such a natural, in-born thing with Ginny to give, and give generously," says David Phillips, the former Executive Director of the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation. "And I thing it's very frustrating for her, sometimes, to find that not everyone shares that same commitment to giving in support of our community."
Dayton says she is pleased, though, to see what she perceives as an increasingly generous spirit among Valley citizens.
"I think Phoenix and the greater metropolitan area is probably becoming more philanthropic," she says. "The community is growing up, philanthropically. And I hope we will see this reflected in the giving to the new children's hospital."
The new, freestanding, comprehensive children's medical center fully funded and supported by the community, is a dream-come-true for Dayton, who has a profound sense of what such a state-of-the-art facility could mean for Phoenix Children's Hospital.
"It's a whole identity quotient," she says. "It is 'our own building.' We've always had our own staff, but this will give us a real sense of identity. To have all of our services in one area, under one roof."
"I can only hope," she says, "that the whole community will get behind having a children's hospital, encouraging not only the new buildings and the hospital as a whole, but specific programs like the Kidney Center, and the AIDS clinic."
So serious to Dayton was the need for that kind of pediatric facility that she laid down a challenge gift for her fellow Board members: $500,000.
"I stepped up to the plate," she says. "I like seeing the things that I believe in happen ... to see them developing, getting better, serving people."
It's a joy she shares with Nancy Loftin, Vice President, Chief Legal Counsel, and the current chair of the Phoenix Children's Hospital Board.
"Ginny is a wonderful example to all of us on the Hospital Board, for two reasons," Loftin says. "One, she's been a part of Phoenix Children's Hospital for years, and her heart is here with these kids. And, two she's not one to let the rest of us 'rest on our laurels.' She is always challenging us to give more. To give not just generously, but sacrificially. And she sets a wonderful personal example of that with her own contributions."
"She is an exemplary board member and philanthropist," says Phillips. "She's diligent and she takes her responsibilities seriously, always carefully watching that bottom line. She want to make sure every penny goes to benefit those kids."
Nor is that giving spirit limited to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Dayton is a long-time generous supporter of charitable works both in the Valley and back in Minnesota. She has served on the boards of several other hospitals, as well as The Wendy Center (local treatment facility for mentally ill children), and has been honored with the "Spirit of Philanthropy" award by a local theater organization for her contributions to that group's efforts.
Still, she feels a special kind of warmth and urgency about the activities of Phoenix Children's.
"I would like to challenge the greater community to support the development of our children's hospital," Dayton says.
"We need community. And folks should be part of this project, particularly, because children are our most important product. That's another cliché ... but it is also true."
Call it "burning ambition." And Virginia Dayton is lighting the fire.