25 years and growing: Community foundation has history of helping


By Dan Davis

We’ve been growing tomorrows for 25 years and counting as the donors, directors and staff of the Community Foundation of Jackson County remain committed to living out our motto: Together, we grow tomorrows.

The foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and we invite you join us for the Community Foundation of Jackson County 25th Anniversary Gala on April 8 at Celebrations in Seymour.

We’ll celebrate the good work resulting from the generosity of our many donors, share a good meal and fellowship and enjoy — and maybe even dance to — music provided by the award-winning band Tastes Like Chicken. Black tie’s optional, but it will be a rare chance to see me in a tuxedo.

The cost of the gala is a $100 donation per person, and we have tables of eight available. If you’re interested, please call us at 812-523-4483. We’ll help make your reservation and make sure you get in on the evening’s fun.

Taking a look back, during 2016, the foundation received gifts of more than $800,000, growing our grant-making abilities, growing our reach in the community and growing our assets to more than $11 million.

Some of that growth — as in 2014 and 2015 — resulted from the generous Lilly Endowment GIFT VI program, which the Community Foundation of Jackson County called An Opportunity for Growth. And grow we do.

Some of that growth resulted from old-fashioned hard work and building relationships, as illustrated by the Orville and Mary Schnitker family and Immanuel United Church of Christ of Crothersville.

And some of that growth resulted from — and continues to grow from — the foundation’s 25 Funds for 25 Years initiative. The program aims to create a combination of 25 new and renewed funds, making match dollars available to newly endowed gifts to the foundation. If you have questions about how to earn match dollars, please call me or visit the office.

An earlier Lilly Endowment initiative helped give birth to the Community Foundation of Jackson County. The Indianapolis-based philanthropic giant first came knocking on our community’s door with its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow initiative to encourage the creation and strengthening of community foundations to help improve the quality of life for Hoosiers.

The timing was excellent, as a group of like-minded residents already were discussing creation of a means to finance the community’s needs.

Those discussions started at least as early as 1988 during a board of directors retreat for the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. The idea was to create an alternative funding source to help finance community projects, said Gary Myers, a founding member of the foundation board of directors.

Talks continued through 1991 and blossomed with the Lilly Endowment GIFT initiative.

Thus was born the Community Foundation of Jackson County in 1992, along with many others across Indiana.

Our first board of directors — as our current panel — consisted of people representing the entire county. They were Gary Myers, Dr. Chris Klaes, Tom Bryant, Gene Johnson, Dave Windley, Joe Robertson, James T. Thompson, Bob Cartwright, Elaine Pollert, Jeff Lorenzo, Steve Ackerman, Carl Shake, Dave Geis, Judy Lester and Tim Clark. John Bottorff was an ex officio member of the board. Thompson served as the first chairman of the board.

The foundation’s first executive director was Tom Voss, a community leader who would briefly guide the foundation in its early days and who would serve as an example of giving by creating the F. Walter Voss and Tom G. Voss Boys and Girls Club of Seymour Fund. The Voss fund continues to benefit the club annually.

Voss was succeeded by Polly Berent of Seymour, Tom Nolting of Brownstown and C.W. “Bud” Walther of Seymour. Walther served the foundation the longest of our directors, from 2000 to July 2014. That’s when I joined the foundation.

In the past 25 years, the foundation has awarded more than $5 million in community grants and scholarships, helping countless people and organizations improve our communities all across Jackson County. We paid out $568,143.66 in grants and scholarships last year. All this despite many naysayers who doubted the viability of creating a community foundation here.

Organizations and people benefiting from grants and endowments over the years range from youth to seniors and include social service and nonprofit agencies, area schools, volunteer fire departments, the arts and municipal parks. Our reach is to all corners of the county.

The foundation staff, the board of directors and former members of the board are working hard to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary in 2017 and to ensure that the next 25 years and beyond reap continued growth for and provide leadership in our community.

Current grants are helping better connect mentors and youth in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, helping older adults share valuable life skills with young students in the Thrive Alliance Foster Grandparents program and helping children recover from traumatic events with the work at Centerstone. We also saw the results of a 2015 impact grant with the completion, opening and dedication of Heritage Park on the courthouse square in Brownstown.

Later this year, we’ll see the fruits of a 2015 fall grant with the publication of a book written through a Leadership Jackson County class project that targets preschool children.

As we strive to live our motto — Together, we grow tomorrows — through a year of celebration in 2017, we expect to grow more funds, such as those early endowments established at the foundation, including the Francis “Pat” Myers and Dorothy M. Myers Fund, the Don and Emmylou Bollinger Endowed Scholarship Fund, the Bob and Eileen Prather Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Reddington Christian Church Endowment.

From those first donations, the number of funds administered by the foundation has grown to 187, including five that resulted from the GIFT VI initiative and three new funds so far with the 25 Funds for 25 Years program.

Our work is about more than scholarships and grants, however.

The foundation continues to support efforts to improve educational opportunities and attainment for residents and businesses. They come in the form of college classes offered by Ivy Tech Community College and IUPUC as well as training sessions and classes offered to workers from area businesses, including JayC Food Stores, Kremers Urban and others at the Jackson County Learning Center.

We also remain involved in educational efforts with the Jackson County Education Coalition, including its On My Way Pre-K pilot program, which is now in the midst of enrollment for its third year; the Economic Opportunities Network and its many initiatives; Leadership Jackson County; and Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.

As always, we thank you for your generosity and stand ready to share information about how others, too, can come together with the community and help grow better tomorrows.

And, again, we look forward to celebrating with you at our 25th Anniversary Gala on April 8.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. The foundation is at 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to president@cfjackson county.org.

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