Foundation reflects on 30 years in community

Friday, June 19, 2015

In most of our lives, 30 constitutes a milestone year, and the Putnam County Community Foundation is no exception.

Looking back on the 30 years since the Foundation's inception locally, the annual meeting of the organization Wednesday night shined the spotlight on the group's origins and originators.

A public charity established in 1985 to serve donors, award grants and provide leadership to enrich life in Putnam County, the Foundation administers more than 260 funds and endowments and has awarded nearly $11 million in grants and scholarships since its creation, Executive Director Elaine Peck told an enthusiastic audience at the Inn at DePauw.

One of the very first community endowments created in Indiana, the Putnam County Foundation was borne out of discussion between Greencastle resident Steve Jones and his cousin, Bob Evans, after Jones had become fascinated with an Ohio community foundation, Peck explained.

"Steve Jones suggested it," she said, "and Bob Evans ran with it."

And for his continued support and involvement in the Putnam County Community Foundation, Evans was honored Wednesday night with the Corinthian Society Award. However, by the time the award was presented, Evans had left the dinner meeting due to another commitment.

Peck, who presented the award to Mark Christy on Evans' behalf, said the honor just adds to the list of Evans' accomplishments as "founder, cheerleader, past board member and president extraordinaire."

Christy, in accepting the award for Evans, noted his generosity and inspiration.

"He inspired me," Christy said, "and has inspired so many more."

His are the shoulders that have often borne the weight of the organization's creation and evolution from first-year assets of $67,000 to more than $28 million at present.

"All of us at the Foundation, Bob, are standing on your shoulders," Peck lauded.

Peck also recognized individuals who have made a meaningful impact not only on the Foundation, but Putnam County as a whole. She recognized the newest honorary board members David Archer, Rodger Winger and Ellie Ypma.

Meanwhile, noting that the initial endowment was the Clinton Township Scholarship program, Foundation President Todd Lewis said scholarships continue to be the most popular type of endowment at the Foundation.

Carolyn Mann, who co-chairs the Scholarship Programs Committee, said the Foundation administered 65 different scholarships in 2014 and awarded more than $200,000 in scholarship money (in addition to the annual Lilly Scholarship).

Over the years, Mann said, some $2.8 million in scholarships have been distributed, representing more than a quarter of all Foundation endowments.

Yet community requests for funding still outstrip what is available for the Foundation to give.

"We receive about $4 in grant requests for every $1 we give," Lewis said.

That is why, he said, it is important that the Foundation take advantage of the current Lilly GIFT VI grant program in which the Lilly Foundation will match local funds dollar for dollar up to a half-million dollars.

"We are four-fifths of the way there," Lewis said, explaining the local organization has drawn down more than $400,000 of the $500,000 in match money necessary to qualify for the Lilly VI effort that would provide the Foundation an additional $45,000 a year to use for grants and scholarships.

"We have nine months to get it done," Lewis said, again driving home the importance of the Lilly VI effort to the community.

"This gift will continue to grow forever, and forever long after we're gone," he said.

Brad Hayes, adult co-chairman of the Youth Philanthropy Committee, reported that 59 students have served on the committee since 2006, and they have awarded 64 grants totaling a little more than $30,300.

In annual meeting business, board members were elected by the membership with Mike Balka and Susan Lemon elected to a term beginning January 2015. Michael Goss was elected to a first term beginning in January 2016, and Vivian Whitaker was elected to a second term beginning in January 2016.

At the conclusion of the annual meeting, the popular chocolate box raffle was conducted by Dean Gambill, Foundation community development director.

Two of the 125 boxes of homemade chocolates donated by Lynda Dunbar of Completely Nuts and Candy Co. contained prize certificates as the boxes were opened in a special reveal ceremony to find the winners.

Lauren Mardis won the 14K white gold and diamond necklace donated by Mason Jewelers, while Zella Thomas claimed a recliner of her choice from Shuee's Furniture and Mattress.

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