By MORGAN MANNS
Two decades ago, area leaders came together to better the city of Fostoria.
The Greater Fostoria Community Foundation is leaving a lasting legacy within the community through support of area organizations. The foundation will recognize its 20th anniversary of giving Sunday.
Although no celebration has been planned, officials said they’re proud of the foundation’s longevity.
“I think any time you’ve been a small part of something and it’s still in existence today, that’s a great feeling,” Cheryl Buckland, board member who was with the foundation in its beginning, said. “People just had a real commitment to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
The GFCF is a collection of individual funds made up of gifts and bequests from individuals, corporations and other foundations.
Since its inception in 1998, the GFCF has distributed more than $2.25 million in grant awards to 57 non-profit organizations in the area.
A community foundation is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit publicly supported philanthropic institution, organized and operated as a permanent collection of endowed funds for the long-term benefit of a defined geographic region.
The first community foundation was established in 1914 in Cleveland.
Fostoria’s foundation was established with the help of the Cleveland Community Foundation with a mission to “improve the quality of life by building a permanent endowment to support our community needs in areas such as the arts, culture, humanities, economic development, civic affairs, education, health and social services.”
The idea stemmed from city leaders’ desire to better the community. A group of about 40 women came together in the early- to mid-1980s for a luncheon, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, to discuss what leadership roles other people in the community might like to assume.
One of the items on the agenda, according to Buckland, was the possibility of starting a community foundation in Fostoria.
“After the meeting, Judy Miller enthusiastically approached me and said she’d be happy to work on that. She thought it was a great idea and she was very familiar with foundations,” Buckland said.
Buckland and Miller had the opportunity to get together on several occasions to determine how the creation of the foundation would unfold. At the time, the Findlay Foundation — now the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation — was also getting off the ground.
“Unless you had $10,000,000 and those kinds of assets, it was too costly to manage a foundation on your own,” Buckland said. “Without the help of the Findlay Foundation and the Cleveland Foundation, and a significant gift by Don and Judy Miller, I don’t know that (the Greater Fostoria Community Foundation) would have evolved as quickly.”
The key, according to Buckland, was a large group of people in the community who came together to form the foundation. A grassroots effort, she believes, is one of the reasons why the foundation is still in existence today.
“We solicited funds from everyone,” she said. “No gift was too small. There was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for the foundation because at that time, we also established what kinds of things need to happen in Fostoria to help the community grow. “¦ It’s hard to believe, in a lot of respects, that it’s been 20 years.”
Grant applications are accepted from qualified area 501(c)(3) organizations twice a year — deadlines are Feb. 28 and Aug. 31.
Typically, to be eligible for funding from any of the Foundation’s unrestricted funds, the organization or project focus must be in the city of Fostoria or one of the surrounding townships: Jackson, Loudon, Perry and Washington. From time to time, however, Buckland said the foundation does support projects beyond these parameters.
“That’s the heart and spirit of people in the Midwest. Whatever they are able to give, they will do it,” she said. “It’s appreciated because that money invested over time impacts the quality of life of someone who might be in need.”
“It’s there to help people, to help causes,” she added. “It might make the difference between whether an organization makes it or not.”
In addition to awarding grants, the foundation also completes projects in the community. To support these projects and administrative fees, the foundation hosts fundraisers throughout the year.
The most well-known fundraiser, perhaps, is the annual Mardi Gras. The event began in 2002 with traditional purple, green and gold beads before transitioning in 2016 to a Country Mardi Gras theme with boots and bandanas.
For the last several years, the foundation has also hosted a Hog Roast & Benefit Auction. The 7th annual event will take place in October and supports the foundation’s impact project renovating Foundation Park.
In 2012, the Geary Family YMCA leased Meadowlark Park from the city of the Fostoria and accepted monetary contributions from the foundation for renovations to the park.
The GFCF has distributed nearly $632,000 from 12 different component funds toward the maintenance, operation and capital improvements of the park, including a separate fenced-in dog park area and revamping dugouts, scoreboards, fencing, warning tracks, seeding and more.
Additionally, the concession stand was remodeled and a new restroom facility was built.
“Another key to our success is we have that stability in leadership from people who were involved in the very beginning and I think the same enthusiasm exists today,” she said, noting the board has recruited some younger members. “We recognize it’s the next generation that’s going to continue, not just those of us who started it but new people on the board.”
Current board members include President Angie Briggs, Vice President Bridgett Mundy, Treasurer Aaron Smith, Standing Secretary and Executive Director Michele Cochran and members Mark Baker, Buckland, Ron Burns, Charlie Frankart, Charles Knight, Ford Mennel, Don and Judy Miller, Chris Posey, Bill Reineke Sr., Joe Reinhart, Gene Schalk, Kyle Smith and Chris Widman.
Looking ahead, Cochran said the foundation plans to continue its efforts to improve the quality of life for Fostoria area residents with its regular grant award program.
For more information on the GFCF, visit http://www.fostoriacommunityfoundation.com or find Fostoria Community Foundation on Facebook.
“I think I speak for both Judy and I when I say we’re surrounded by people with a great deal of enthusiasm who attract people who want to be a part of something greater than themselves,” Buckland said. “That’s one of the greatest feelings in the world when you’re able to impact someone’s life and be a part of something great that still exists today.”