Foundation honors Marleys, Morrises at annual meeting
Two giving Greencastle couples shared the Putnam County Community Foundation’s two highest honors Wednesday night.
Joy and Bill Marley, longtime shepherds of the People Pathways project, received the 2018 Spirit of Philanthropy Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Foundation, during its annual meeting at the Inn at DePauw.
Meanwhile, Thom and Gwen Morris were presented with the 2018 Corinthian Society Award for 25 years or more of continued donations to the organization.
“Great philanthropy requires great vision,” Foundation Board President Ken Eitel reasoned before presenting the Spirit of Philanthropy honor. “The recipients tonight are certainly visionaries who have worked tirelessly over the years to make Putnam County a wonderful place to live.
“Bill and Joy Marley have done their work in the shadows,” Eitel added, “never seeking recognition for themselves. Their only objective was to make this a better and healthier place to live.”
He noted that Joy Marley, a teacher in the Greencastle elementary schools, envisioned a network of trails connecting Greencastle schools and enabling children to walk safely to and from school. And in 1995 she began the People Pathways effort, “making presentations to the City of Greencastle, Putnam County, the Greencastle School Board and any organization or person who would listen to her vision.”
Now, even in retirement, the Marleys “continue to shepherd what has become not only a community and county asset, but is an example to other counties and municipalities of a walkable community,” Eitel praised.
The Marleys’ vision and leadership have “sparked collective efforts from citizens, governmental agencies, businesses and philanthropic organizations, including the Putnam County Community Foundation,” he added.
“Bill and Joy surely represent the definition of philanthropy, ‘Love of mankind, a voluntary joining of resources and action for the public good,” Eitel continued, adding that in presenting the 2018 Spirit of Philanthropy Award to the Marleys along with a $200 grant to the People Pathways Endowment in their honor.
“The Spirit of Philanthropy is forward thinking, and dreaming, and the Marleys represent that spirit,” Eitel praised as the audience rose to its feet to honor the Marleys, who moved to Greencastle 51 years ago and have no plans to leave.
“When you stood up,” Joy smiled in her typical self-effacing manner, “I thought you were all leaving.”
The Marleys carried the ball when the Foundation offered an original $20,000 matching grant as seed money for the creation of People Pathways. That meant an additional $20,000 had to be raised within the community to secure a grant that would ultimately help leverage $1.5 million to develop the walking, hiking and biking trails that now cover 15.4 miles of linear park.
Joy Marley continued to downplay their role in the effort, saying she and Bill “were just the ‘put-er-together-ers.’”
She added that Dr. Robert Heavin gave her a better nickname when he introduced her before she addressed the Board of Health about the project.
“Doc Heavin said, ‘I’m pleased to introduce the People Pathways’ lead cow,’” Joy Marley recalled, getting chuckles in response.
“My head just swelled,” she continued, “because as an Indiana farm girl, that was the nicest thing anybody ever said about me.”
That notion certainly didn’t hold up Wednesday night as much nicer comments ensued as the Spirit of Philanthropy honor was presented.
“We look forward to new stewards of the pathways taking over,” Joy said. “Thank you, Putnam County Community Foundation, for your support and your patience over all these years.”
Moments earlier, in introducing Foundation Executive Director Elaine Peck to present the Corinthian Society Award, Eitel called Putnam County “a very generous community.”
“One of the things that we so appreciate about our donors is their loyalty,” he added. “There are 181 persons who have contributed consecutively every year to the Community Foundation for five years or more.”
But by contributing for more than a quarter-century, Thom and Gwen Morris -- who Peck called “early believers in the Foundation” -- were presented with the Corinthian Award, which recognizes persons who donate to the Foundation annually for 25 consecutive years.
The Morrises “were making gifts to the Foundation before 1992 when very few people even knew what the Foundation was,” Peck added.
Gwen Morris is a retired educator after more than 40 years in the Greencastle School Corporation, including serving as principal at Deer Meadow. Husband Thom has been the quality manager at Crown Equipment for the past 20 years.
Both also have served in capacities with city government, Thom Morris on the Greencastle Board of Public Works for several years and Gwen Morris as a member of the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission, a position she has held through four mayors, beginning with her appointment by Mike Harmless.
Meanwhile, Peck also announced the newest honorary board member as Keith Brackney, who was unable to attend Wednesday night.
Brackney “is well known and loved in Putnam County,” Peck said, noting that he has served on 10 different non-profit boards, including the maximum two consecutive three-year terms on the Foundation Board.
In expressing the Foundation’s mission, Eitel told the audience the word “philanthropy” is of Greek origin and “literally means love of humankind.”
“I think that most of us here tonight believe Putnam County to be a very caring and generous community,” he said. “We are celebrating and recognizing the impact of that generosity tonight.”
The Community Foundation takes care of more than 280 active funds and endowments, invests more than $30 million, and awarded more than $800,000 in grants and scholarships in 2017, Eitel noted during the evening.
Also, the Community Foundation’s investment program earned more than $4.2 million for the benefit of the community in 2017.
“During 32 years of service, the Community Foundation has successfully navigated ups and downs in the market, several investment bubbles and two serious recessions,” Eitel said. “Since inception, our average annual investment returns are 8.8 percent and the Community Foundation’s investment program has brought in nearly $19 million to our community.”
During the annual meeting, the Foundation also elected the following 2019 board members:
-- Jeffrey Blaydes, Michael Goss and Alan Zerkel to second, three-year terms.
-- Elizabeth Cheatham, James Jackson and Jeffrey Kiger to initial three-year terms.
Their terms all begin Jan. 1, 2019 and end Dec. 31, 2021.
They join Eitel, Phil Gick, Mitch Proctor, Jane Alcorn, Rick Bittles, Debbi Christy, Chase Haltom, Kate Knaul, Carolyn Mann, Jeff McCall, Susan Price, Nancy Wells and Vivian Whitaker on the board.