Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Twenty-five years ago, in August 1988, several civic leaders in the Roanoke Valley were brought together by the Council of Community Services. They met quietly to establish a brand new, nonprofit organization. There was no fanfare, no ribbon cutting, no celebratory speeches. But the shared vision and leadership of this group of nine, chaired by the late Barton W. Morris, set in motion something that would have a dramatic impact on the Roanoke Valley and the lives of its citizens. They created the area’s “community foundation.”
Foundation for Roanoke Valley, a type of charitable entity that had been bringing benefits to hundreds of other communities across the country since 1914, was born. There were no assets in hand — just a dream to make something good a reality.
Growth was slow. The first annual audit of the foundation showed $139.84 in assets at the beginning of 1989 and $258.07 at the end of that year. In early 1990, the board made the decision to hire a full-time executive director. This leap forward was made possible by board gifts and $25,000 each in operating support from The Roanoke Times, Dominion Bank and Norfolk Southern.
Later, the fledgling community foundation would attract the attention of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Mich. Foundation for Roanoke Valley became one of three community foundations in the country to receive a six-figure administrative challenge grant, which was subsequently met by local donors. Things were looking up, but the goal of millions in endowments was still but a dream.
In mid-1991, the foundation’s landscape changed dramatically. Lewise Parsley, with the support of her professional advisor, chose to set up the foundation’s first endowment fund. She had long wanted to help the elderly afford prescription medications, to keep young people off of drugs and to help the sick be able to remain in their homes. Thus, the Thomas P. and Lewise S. Parsley Fund was established. Soon thereafter other individuals and families began to express interest in this community foundation concept, inspired by Lewise’s story. New funds were put in place, and grants were starting to flow back into the community. Excitement was building.
Fast forward to August 2013. On the 25th anniversary of the creation of Foundation for Roanoke Valley, your community foundation now holds approximately $55 million in charitable assets. Those assets are spread among 260 separate funds established by individuals, families, corporations and nonprofits and range in size from $10,000 to several million dollars. The foundation is also aware of approximately $70 million in future estate commitments to benefit the region. Total cumulative grants paid back to the community over the years will soon exceed $30 million.
The foundation has undertaken major grant initiatives to mentor youth, to help the elderly, to bring arts into the classroom. It has built amphitheaters and pavilions, paved walking trails, provided fire departments with state-of-the-art thermal-imaging cameras, helped build Little League ball fields, put service dogs in educational facilities, placed automated external defibrillators in dozens of schools. It has helped many hundreds of young men and women pursue higher education through its 50 scholarship endowments. It has started new programs to meet previously unmet needs. With $3 million in grants annually to hundreds of worthy nonprofits, the list of grants is lengthy and the results compelling. The lives of tens of thousands of local citizens have been touched in very real and positive ways due to the many, many folks who did or now regularly support the foundation’s work, as well as the ongoing significant involvement of the professional adviser community.
All the while, the foundation has kept its eye on the ball, emphasizing uncompromisingly professional stewardship of gifted assets, adherence to the intent of its donors and operating with a small but highly efficient staff while containing costs.
Where will the next 25 years lead? Based on the continuing growth of interest in the foundation’s work, the sky is the limit. At some point, your community foundation will reach and exceed $100 million in assets and then, dare we say, a quarter of a billion? A far-fetched dream? Perhaps, but the unfailing generosity of this community makes dreams come true. Just reflect on that group of nine who believed fervently in that possibility 2 1⁄2 decades ago.
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