Origins and History
The Blackford County Community Foundation was formed in March of 1997 from a merger of the Montpelier Community Foundation, Inc. (first incorporated on May 15, 1989) and the Blackford County Foundation (Hartford City-based). This merger was the direct result of encouragement from Elizabeth Wright, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Grant County, and Dean Young, former Indiana State Representative, to local leaders across the county to discuss combining the two organizations in order to garner broad support for wide community improvement. The first board of directors for the newly formed Blackford County Community Foundation included Robert Wyne, president, Rod Black, vice president, Kenneth Neff, secretary, and Leonard Fisher, treasurer. The combined board consisted of ten directors from the Montpelier Community Foundation, Inc., and six directors from the Blackford County Foundation. The board contracted with Elizabeth Wright to serve as the executive director, a position she maintained for two years before Ben Oswalt was named executive director in 1999.
This merger of the two local foundations put the newly formed Blackford County Community Foundation in a position to participate in Lilly Endowment’s GIFT (Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) initiatives, resulting in the infusion of $1.6 million over a period of five years. Assets at the time of the merger were approximately $100,000 and are now in excess of $5 million, growth that reflects the commitment of Blackford County residents to their community. Four different management firms, currently Merrill Lynch, have managed these funds since 1997.
In the first few years after its founding, most new assets came to the Foundation as estate gifts, most notably, from the Dorothy Gadbury estate and the Schantz family. Funds from the latter were used to establish a scholarship fund that was then matched by Lilly Endowment. Other large donations in the early years included legacy gifts the Opal Greenlee estate, the Clara Kitterman estate, and the Geraldine Myers estate. Scholarships have been a major focus of the Foundation from its inception; the Foundation has granted nearly $1 million in scholarships in that time.
In November of 2001, the Foundation was awarded a $4.7 million CAPE (Community Alliances to Promote Education) grant with Blackford County Schools, the largest single grant ever given in Blackford County. From the original grant, a $772,924 endowment was established with the Foundation for further promotion of literacy within the community through the local APPLE (Alliance to Promote Partnerships for Early Literacy Education) Grants program.
In 2009, the Foundation spearheaded the formation of Women of Worth (W.O.W.) as a group of over 272 women in the community who contribute their membership dollars to grants for projects that address community needs and for the establishment of an endowment to support and sustain future grants. This was the Foundation’s first venture into organizing a women’s giving organization with donors giving small individual amounts that impact the whole community.
A board of eleven directors governs the Foundation. Each director serves a three-year term for up to three terms, so that every three years about one-third of the group is newly appointed. The Foundation Board of Directors has made a conscious effort to diversify its membership by age, gender, occupation, and geographic location within the county.
As we move into the future, we are continuously seeking dedicated members of the community to partner with us to improve Blackford County.