Community Foundation shows initiative
by Jack Mcneely
Sep 16, 2012 | 735 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
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Last week I wrote about the significant impact that United Way contributions make on Walker County. I would be remiss not to mention this week the major impact of the Walker Area Community Foundation.

After attending its annual luncheon Wednesday in Jasper, I now have a better perspective of the many local services made possible via Community Foundation grants. Let’s face it, not many communities the size of Jasper and Walker County can say they have a community foundation.

The mission of the Walker Area Community Foundation is to build an endowment that will forever help support the charitable needs of our community.

Last year, the Community Foundation came to the forefront here in Walker County as it played a critical role in recovery efforts with the Long-Term Recovery Committee following the April 27 tornado outbreak that devastated several communities here, killing nine.

In 2011, the Foundation distributed $1.2 million in grants, and received $10.7 million in gifts. Today, the fund exceeds $22 million.

The Community Foundation has set four initiatives. They include: 1) Rebuilding hope after a disaster, 2) Connecting past, present and future, 3) Creating healthy habits, and 4) Teaching philanthropy.

“Rapid change has been the theme for 2011. Off to a predictable start, the year took a horrible turn on April 27. One of the darkest days for Walker County has turned out to be one of the brightest days for the Community Foundation,” said Paul Kennedy, foundation president.

“How can this experience be rewarding?” he asked. “We learned … a lot. We learned that despite the nightly news, our neighbors, and fellow countrymen are kind, generous and talented. Volunteers have come from across the United States and Canada to rebuild Walker County. We learned we have more capacity for direct service than we would have ever imagined before the storm.”

According to Foundation Chairman Jack Allen, the foundation’s assets grew in 2011 from $13.4 million to $22.3 million for several reasons. “Primarily, we had several large gifts from generous supporters who had confidence in our Foundation,” he said.

The Bankhead Foundation, which has been active in local philanthropic activities for over 23 years, transferred its $4 million in assets to the Community Foundation in December. Barbara Drummond Thorne left $5 million to the Foundation to be distributed to area charities according to her wishes. Lewis Manderson and Beth Thorne Stukes are both very concerned about the future of Cordova and individually pledged $500,000 over the next five years.

Look closely at the Foundation’s annual report and the largest collective contribution came from ordinary working people. Since its inception in 1996, more than 500 businesses, families and individuals have been listed as Circle of Friend contributors for giving between $150 and $1,499. That’s a lot of family, friends and neighbors joining forces to better the community.

Following is a list of funds of the Community Foundation:

•Bankhead Fund – Started by Walter Will Bankhead, this fund has long since given grant supporting charitable purposes in Walker County.

•Barbara Drummond Thorne Fund – Given by her estate, Mrs. Thorne’s fund will offer a variety of organizations that were closest to her heart financial aid now and into the future.

•Drummond Company, Inc. Fund – Provides aid to Drummond Company current and retired employees who suffered damage because of the April 27, 2011, tornados.

•DTS Fund – Works to improve the quality of life and address the immediate needs of the City of Cordova.

•Matthew Crump Fund – Supports the efforts of men and women engaged in emergency response within Walker County, especially those affiliated with volunteer fire departments. It also provides material support to special needs citizens of Walker County, primarily through the Special Olympics.

•Unmet Needs Fund – Focuses on meeting the emergency unmet needs of Walker County residents who have suffered damage due to natural disasters.

•Excellence in Education Fund – Supports the Jasper City School system and its teachers with expenses not included in the general budget.

•Hope Clinic Endowed Fund – An endowed fund that supports the Hope Clinic, which is a nonprofit organization that provides health care at no charge to qualified, uninsured residents of Walker County.

•Jasper Recreational Fund – In January 2008, the Community Foundation combined the Natatorium and APEX Funds to create the Jasper Recreational Fund with a mission to support the expansion of recreational opportunities and programs.

•Rotary Club of Jasper Fund – Created in 2010 as the endowed fund of the Rotary Club of Jasper, this fund will strive to improve the quality of life for families and individuals in our community.

•Sherer Family Foundation Fund – Supports first the aesthetics of our community and second the fine arts of the Walker Area, its facilities, grounds and environs.

•Samuel Lee Smith Advised Fund – Helps children and youth live their lives to the fullest by making grants to encourage strong health, athletics, scouting, religion and the arts, especially to those who need financial assistance.

Wow. One thing I have learned since making Jasper and Walker County my new home this year is that WE take care of our own. I applaud the Walker Area Community Foundation, its staff and especially the contributors that make it all possible.

Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.