“We got started as a community foundation in July, 1995 with one fund and $350,000 in assets. Today, we’ve grown to over $17 million in 134 funds and have another $4 million estate about to come into the Barry Community Foundation,” Bonnie Hildreth, the dynamic president of the foundation, told me as she and several other community leaders took me for a tour of Barry County (population 59,899). At her annual meeting that night I told her 200+ members that I was in awe with what they had accomplished in only 12 years. Wayne County, MI (Detroit) with just under 2 million people would have had to raise almost $600 million to equal the per capita giving of Barry County.
Dr. Kim Norris, a local ophthalmologist and chair of the Barry Community Foundation, told me, “We’ve been very blessed with a great number of very caring and very giving individuals.” At her remarks at the annual meeting she quoted an African proverb, “If a person dreams alone, it remains nothing but a dream. But when a people dream together, that dream can become a reality.”
Barry Community Foundation’s Annual Report of 28 pages has hundreds of funds, donors, recipients and causes that were funded in the past year. Following are just a couple of stories that caught my fancy.
The Barry Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was started with an endowment from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation that continues to grow. The program is open to county youth between the ages of 13 and 21 which meets twice a month to focus upon grant making, leadership and community service. Twice a year these young people give out $300 to $5,000 grants to youth related projects in the county. In 2007 they funded 15 projects, totaling over $25,000.
Bonnie Hildreth told of a group of first graders from the Delton Kellogg Elementary School that applied for funding to replace dangerous and worn-out playground equipment, “They sat down with their teacher who turned their application to YAC into a math and communication lesson.”
Barry Community Foundation is also working with Gen X’ers. Bonnie told me, “We’ve got a special Next Generation Fund that is managed by a group of 20 to 40 year olds who collectively have set up their own fund within the foundation.”
An impressive Foundation funded project was the Orangeville Veterans Memorial which was dedicated May 27th. The dream for the memorial began with Alvin Warren, a lifelong resident who was a Vietnam veteran, member of the Army Engineering Corps and a quarter century member of the National Guard. In a six month period of time $30,000 was raised, gifts were made of building material, labor was donated and the construction was completed in time for Memorial Day, 2007.
When we were doing our tour we drove up to the memorial where we found a veteran who was lost in thought. He had decided to drive the 100 miles from his home on a beautiful fall day so that he could spend some time in homage.
I’ve often said at my talks that if there was one thing I could do in every town I talk in, it would be to start a community foundation. Examples like the Barry Community Foundation are multiplying and growing around the USA.