By TIM HORAN
“Timing” was a key in the success of the Community Foundation of Dickinson County in the early years.
Rick Williamson, one of the early founders, quoted that cliché of being at the right time and the right place back in 1999 when the Abilene Community Foundation was founded.
Today it is called The Community Foundation of Dickinson County and the organization’s annual meeting was held at the Eisenhower Presidential Library Courtyard on Friday.
Williamson shared some insight on how it got started.
“In the banking business, I saw all kinds of people that had money in the bank and died. Where’d the money go? The kids? Where ever they were, they were never in Abilene. I had become aware of foundations and what they had done for small towns.”
Williamson and former Abilene attorney Max Hinkle visited about forming a local foundation and soon the number of people involved grew.
“There were seven or eight of us, I think,” he said of the beginning.
The group went to Hutchinson to visit with a successful foundation that was established there.
“We came back and got started,” he said. “Fortunately, and here is the fortunate part, these things are all about timing. We started at a time when the Kansas Health Foundation Initiative had a big initiative about community foundations.
“In a large part we are successful today because we were on the ground floor,” he said.
He was asked if, at the time, he thought the foundation would grow to what it is today.
“I hoped it would,” he said. “People never think about leaving money in their own community if there is not an instrument or a tool to do something with it. People on their own just don’t think about those things.
“Had we not had the foundation would the Tyrells have said “I want to leave it to scholarship?” William-son asked. “No. But because we have it, it just grows as long we can convince people we are doing the right thing. It’s probably doubled, given what we are doing today.”
The $1.3 million estate of Benjamin Woodrow and Esther Tyrell was the largest
single endowment gift in the Foundation’s history and will benefit two graduating seniors from county high schools every year with multi-year scholarships.
Chairman of the foundation board, Bruce Dale, said that 50 men and women guided by Williamson formed the organization. 14 years ago.
“The intent of this group was to connect donors wanting to make a difference to the needs of the community and to do this on an ongoing basis,” Dale said.
The first part-time director was Gwyn Johnson.
Inspirational stories about the impact of local philanthropy on the county were discussed during the annual meeting.
Kristine Meyer, Community Foundation president, said the event was a celebration of philanthropy in Dickinson County. As the philanthropic leader and local charitable giving resource, the Foundation annually reports to the community via an annual meeting during which the written report is released to the public. The theme of this year’s annual report is “Your Generosity, Our Stewardship.”
“This past year we had two very generous gifts that exemplify the vision of people in our county towards supporting future generations,” Meyer said.
One was that of Tyrells. The other was Joe and June Nold of Abilene who also established a prestigious multi-year scholarship that each year will assist four students in Dickinson County attending their alma mater, Fort Hays State University.
She also discussed the power of donor advised funds that allow donors to recommend grants to their favorite charities. A sampling of recipients from donor advised funds include the Arts Council of Dickinson County, the Dickinson County 4-H Foundation, the Eisenhower Park Walking Trail, the Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Heifer International, Kansas Public Radio, the Nature Conservancy, and St. Andrew’s Elementary School. Donor advised funds are driven by the passion of the donors who establish the fund. The funds can bear the family’s name or be anonymous depending upon donor preference.
Dale the efforts of all those involved in leading the Foundation to its successful year, citing it takes a community working together to accomplish the organization’s goals.
“It does take a village of dedicated people all doing the right things to enable us to be good stewards of the monies entrusted to us and to insure that this foundation can do good forever,” Dale said.
Dale presented plaques to two retiring board members, Dr. Don Berkley and Sheila Biggs, for their faithful service the past nine years. New board members introduced were Craig Chamberlin of rural Chapman and Brenda Holm of Abilene.
Meyer also stressed that in Dickinson County alone, $482 million is expected to transfer from one generation to the next by 2020, with a large share leaving the county along with the next generation. The Foundation’s goal is to retain five percent of the expected transfer to sustain and support the quality of life in Dickinson County in the future.
The Community Foundation currently stewards over $7 million in charitable assets – the result of contributions from families, individuals and businesses who care about the community. Established in 1999, the Foundation makes charitable giving easy, flexible and effective.