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A ‘group hug’ from YS foundation

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What do the doors at the library, the mural under the Little Art Theatre marquee, the roof of the Community Children’s Center, the soccer fields at the high school, the dishwasher at the Senior Center, the wood kiln at John Bryan Community Pottery and the handicapped access ramp at Glen Helen have in common?

They were all made possible through a grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. In fact, according to board member Jane Scott, the impact of the foundation is widespread.
“I don’t think there’s any aspect of the community that is not touched by funds coming from the Community Foundation,” Scott said this week. “The grants are not always big … but there’s nothing we haven’t really helped.”

All that has been achieved by the work of local groups, with foundation money, is worth celebrating, foundation members believe. To honor the community that it has funded for 38 years, the Community Foundation is throwing a party for all Yellow Springs and Miami Township residents, complete with a cookout, games and live music, on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Mills Lawn grounds.

At the party, open to the public, there will be hot dogs, hamburgers, vegetarian food, three-legged races, balloon tosses and details on the work of local organizations. What there won’t be is solicitation.

“We won’t be fundraising and we won’t accept donations,” said foundation board president Bruce Bradtmiller. “Just come and have fun.”

To foundation member Evan Scott, the event is like a community “group hug” in celebration of the active citizenship fostered by former Antioch College president Arthur Morgan in the mid-20th century, which is enshrined in the foundation. And it’s a way for the foundation to find the next generation of donors, recipients and board members.

“In the same way that there were 20 to 30 folks who stepped up big and made [the foundation] a part of the community … we’re looking to get the next generation of villagers engaged in the work of the foundation,” said Scott.

One selling point of a local foundation, which only gives grants in Yellow Springs and Miami Township, is that any project could potentially be funded.

“You can come with any idea that you want — any idea that is valuable to the community — and you have a shot at getting help from the foundation,” Scott said.

Seeded in 1974 with a modest $10,000 grant from the Miami Deposit Bank in memory of deceased bank president Jim Mitchell, the Community Foundation has grown to more than $7.5 million in assets, annually doling out more than $150,000 in non-profit grants and scholarships.

Mitchell originally developed the concept of a local foundation that could accept bequests for local organizations. Mitchell was himself a “force for good in the community,” according to Bradtmiller, and after Mitchell’s sudden death in 1974, his friends and family created the foundation to carry out his vision. The first two grants of $1,000 each were awarded to Antioch College and the Yellow Springs Senior Center the following year.

Today the foundation has 40 donor-directed funds going to specific local causes such as helping the elderly or supporting the arts, as well as endowment funds with the interest accumulation aiding Glen Helen or Antioch College students, and an annual campaign that raises between $30,000 and $40,000 each year.

The Community Foundation acts to pool the community’s collective wealth to support organizations that might not otherwise be funded, board members said.

“By pooling everyone’s small resources, the foundation is able to support a number of organizations that work to enhance the vitality and vibrancy of the community,” Jane Scott said.

Last year the foundation funded 21 local organizations to the tune of $161,954. For example, the Riding Centre received $4,250 to help purchase a wheelchair lift for its horseback-riding therapy program. Home, Inc. put a $10,000 grant towards the construction of an affordable home on West Davis Street. The Antioch School was given a $5,000 matching grant for fundraising. And the Yellow Springs School District was awarded $10,000 to refurbish the high school track through the Yellow Springs Endowment for Education, a once-independent organization that merged with the Community Foundation several years ago.

The Miller Endowment Fund, valued at $3.8 million last year, accounts for the largest chunk of the Community Foundation’s assets. A bequest from Nolan and Richard Miller, the fund pays 10 Antioch College students to work for local non-profits throughout their school year.
Meanwhile, the smallest grants given each year come to $300. Known as Saul Young mini-grants in honor of the deceased board member, unsolicited grants are given to organizations without them asking. Good Samaritans in the village are rewarded for their contribution to the community by being given the opportunity to direct $300 to a favorite organization. For example, last year Kurt Miyazaki was honored since his business, the Emporium, serves as an important gathering place for local non-profits. He gave his mini-grant to the Nonstop Institute.

As for grants that are solicited, the Community Foundation has one key criterion, according to Jane Scott. As long as the proposed project will benefit Yellow Springs or Miami Township, a grant of some amount will be given. About 80 percent of all funding requests received are funded at some level. A mix of new and returning groups gets foundation grants each year. Some organizations received start-up funding, as Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse did in late 1990s, while others were given money for capital campaigns, special projects or planning efforts. Most grants are solicited, since villagers — not foundation board members — know best what the community needs.

“Our sense has always been that Yellow Springs as a community has very active citizens,” Bradtmiller said. “People on the ground know what the community needs better than we do.”
Grants requests are reviewed monthly, meaning the foundation can respond to urgent funding needs and stay abreast of community needs, according to Bradtmiller.

When villagers look to make end-of-year donations to support local causes or consider giving away money in their will, the Community Foundation hopes to be the place. Giving to the foundation, rather than a single organization, has its benefits.

“The Yellow Springs Community Foundation funds are invested in such a way that we’ll be around forever,” Bradtmiller said. “There’s a guaranteed longevity. Smaller organizations can come and go, but we’ll honor the donor’s interest in perpetuity.”


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