The History of the Washington County Community Foundation
Like many community foundations in Indiana, the Washington County Community Foundation is a direct result of the GIFT (Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) Initiative of The Lilly Endowment, Inc. In the early 1990's The Endowment issued a challenge to Indiana communities to establish their own community foundation, thus enabling each community to guide the creation of a charitable organization that would serve the needs of the community for generations to come.
Our Foundation was incorporated on May 13, 1993 after many months of meetings and much hard work by several individuals. The founding board members were:
- David Beck, Board Chair
- Burl Jean
- Carmelita Jean
- Jack Mahuron, Executive Director
- Don Martin
- Ginger Morris
- Steve Risen
- Oliver Sizemore, Treasurer
- Bob Strange
- Jean Wilson, Secretary
- Drew Wright, Legal Counsel
They said it couldn't be done! At the early meetings, the group established an initial goal of endowing $1,000,000.00. Many scoffed at the idea, but the group persevered. By July 1996, the group reached the $1M endowment mark and never looked back.
The first planned gift to the Washington County Community Foundation came from Bob and Clarice Morris. Through the sale of three farms, Bob and Clarice created a Charitable Remainder Trust which provided income to them for life and eventually transferred to our Foundation. Because of their generosity and true leap of faith, our legacy society is called the Morris Society after Bob and Clarice.
The Washington County Youth Foundation was established in 2001. Founding board members of the Youth Foundation were: Andrew Burks, Charity Graef, Mike Kragel, Tara Maxey, Greg O'Connell, Miri Phelps and Clayton Pruitt. In 2010, the Youth Foundation established the Happily Ever After Project. Their goal was to create a love of reading in every child's life. This has become the signature program of the Youth Foundation. Phase I targets second and third grade students. The goal is to increase reading comprehension skills and instill a love of reading in every child’s life. In this phase, high school students read to the elementary students on a weekly basis, modeling the behavior that reading is cool. Each school year, participating students are given at least three chapter books.
After two years of study and research, the Washington County Community Foundation launched its first proactive initiative, Youth First, in 2007. Their goal was to create a positive environment within the county where youth are valued, their needs come first and investments are made in their well being.
In 2011, Youth First merged with the YMCA to best serve youth through their common commitments to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. This merger allowed for further utilization of Youth First's mission, and the possibility to grow developmental assets in our community more intentionally.
In 2012, the Washington County Community Foundation began working on its next big initiative, Education Matters. The Goal of Education Matters is to increase the educational attainment of the adults residing in our county. The initial focus has centered on adults with some college and no degree. With the assistance of scholarships and a peer mentoring program, the Foundation began helping adults return to college to complete their degree or obtain a certification in 2013.
Realizing that strength lies in numbers, Washington County partnered with Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Scott Counties to create Education Matters Southern Indiana. This initiative continues to build.
In 2015, we launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. This is Phase II of the Happily Ever After Project. With the assistance of several local donors and sponsors, along with 5 years of fundraising by the Washington County youth Foundation, we finally had enough resources to launch the service. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a free service that mails age appropriate books to all registered Washington County children under the age of five.
Although the faces of the leadership of the Washington County Community Foundation have changed over time, as is always the case with any healthy, thriving organization, the core values and mission remain the same. We continue to work diligently to assist our donors in creating a legacy that is meaningful to them. All of our success is directly related to the generosity of the sons and daughters of Washington County. We will continue to help our donors to give back to our community through our Foundation and improve the quality of life in our county.