The Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley has topped $100 million in grants bestowed since its creation in 1998, foundation President and CEO Betsy Covington announced today,
The foundation sent out checks for more than $620,000 this week for 106 grants, Covington said. Among those was a check from the Thad and Allison Estes Fund that officially nudged the foundation over the $100 million mark.
“We couldn’t be happier to share this good news with the community,” Covington said. “We’ve said for years that people don’t give to a community foundation, they give through it.”
Over the 17 years the foundation has been in existence, donors have contributed $187 million to it. Even with the $100 million in grants handed out over the years, the foundation still has assets of $109 million, thanks to prudent investing, Covington said.
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Attorney Ken Henson is chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees and uses a foundation Donor Advised Fund for his own family’s philanthropy. Henson said the amount of financial support the foundation has been given over the years reflects just how generous the community is.
“We live in a very giving community that has made the Community Foundation the premier center for thoughtful philanthropy,” Henson said. “What’s amazing to me is just how easy they make it for me to give money away and feel good about where it’s going.”
Columbus hasn’t always had an asset like the Community Foundation. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Ledger-Enquirer Publisher John Greenman got together with other community leaders to explore establishing one.
“I arrived in ’95 from Akron, Ohio, where there was a robust community foundation,” Greenman said. “When I came to Columbus I discovered two things. One, that there wasn’t a community foundation and two, that the Rothschilds, both Alan Sr. and Alan Jr., were talking about how important developing one was.”
Together with other leaders such as Sam Wellborn, Frank Etheridge, Jack Goldfrank, Marvin Schuster and others, they set out to get the foundation started.
One of the leaders, W.C. Bradley executive Lovick Corn, came up with an idea that would give the foundation an initial financial boost. The Chattahoochee Valley Fair was on its last legs, and had been “moribund” for some time, Greenman said.. Corn suggested that the fair be abandoned and the $600,000 in assets it had be used to kick-start the foundation.
“With that, we got going,” Greenman said.
Because Columbus was and is a Knight City, one that had a Knight-Ridder newspaper, the Knight Foundation also got involved, Greenman said.
“They provided us with consulting help, and they provided us with some initial money,” Greenman said. “They said if we reached a certain level, they were going to give us $500,000. We reached it and they did.”
The board’s initial goal was to reach $5 million in assets, a tipping point at which the Knight consultants told them it would “take off.”
“And he was right,” Greenman said. “It took the foundation maybe two or three years to get to $5 million, and today it’s well over $100 million.”
Covington said the foundation is planning a community-wide celebration of the milestone, to be announced next year. In 2011, when the foundation surpassed $50 million, it celebrated with a “50 for 50 School Project,” which raised $100,000 for 253 individual classroom projects around the Chattahoochee Valley.