Celebrating 68 years of service to Knox County

The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County entered the second decade new millennium having experienced an unprecedented period of growth and service to the people of Knox County. In May of 2012, well into our 68th year of operation, the assets of the Foundation surpassed $38 million, up from $8 million in 1990 and $21.7 million in 2000. In that millennial year distributions in the form of grants to local nonprofit organizations surpassed $800,000 for the first time, while for the past three years total distributions in the form of grants and scholarships have averaged $1.8 million! One might refer to Foundation funds as a renewable philanthropic resource.

In 1944, when Beatty B. Williams and his associates established The Mount Vernon Community Trust (now known as The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County) there were only seven other Ohio community endowment organizations, all of which followed in the footsteps of the first-in-the-nation chartered community endowment, The Cleveland Foundation, established in 1914. Today there are nearly 100 community foundations in Ohio (and more than 500 in the USA). Collectively, Ohio community foundations host well more than $4 billion in permanent, charitable funds, ensuring support for the benevolent and quality-of-life needs of the communities they serve.

In our 1990 annual report entitled “An Endowment for All,” (then) Community Trust chairman William A. Stroud, the recently deceased former president of First-Knox National Bank, set some ambitious goals for the Community Foundation.

“Unlike independent or company-sponsored foundations, which derive their funds from single families or corporations of great wealth, community foundations depend on a multitude of gifts. The Mount Vernon Community Trust is typical in that its financial strength rests on many contributions, individual trusts, estates, and donations.

“Only by inspiring the support of new generations of donors can The Trust continue to grow, to expand its benefits and to meet emerging community needs. For example, our scholarship program, while quite impressive for a small rural county like Knox, can aid only a fraction of the county’s deserving students. Schools, health care facilities, cultural centers, and many other worthy organizations will require additional support as they strive to keep pace with a fast-changing world and to serve more people. In an era of intense pressure on government resources, tax dollars may not be available to undertake exciting new initiatives for enriching civic life. Such visions will languish without generous leadership institutions like The Trust.

“The need to renew and widen The Community Trust’s circle of donors is particularly compelling given the changes that Knox County has undergone since Beatty B. Williams’ day. (Williams served for almost 30 years as CEO of the Cooper-Bessemer Company, Mount Vernon’s major industry. His leadership inspired the formation of the Mount Vernon Community Trust in 1944.)

“While energy, entrepreneurship, and civic pride still invigorate Knox County, the nature of private giving has changed. Today, there are many more competing demands on people’s time and money. That is why The Trust is making broader efforts than ever before to tell its remarkable story and to remind caring citizens of the opportunity that this community foundation represents. That is why The Trust has set a goal of building its assets in its permanent endowment to $15 million by the year 2000.”

Obviously our Community Foundation has prospered beyond Mr. Stroud’s expectations, due to the remarkable generosity of community members, and prudent distribution and investment policies.

As Mr. Stroud said, “The practical advantages of giving to The Community Trust remain as attractive as ever. So, too, does the satisfaction of investing in the future of our Knox County communities.”

A great past is but a prologue to a bright future. The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County plans to continue to operate as a permanent, charitable financial reservoir for the benefit of all the people of Knox County. As time goes by, and as assets grow through the confidence and contributions which local people entrust to it, the Foundation will continue to do good here at home in Knox County.