Henderson Community Foundation example of vision, leadership

Growing up in Henderson is among the things I give thanks for every day. The luck of getting my start in a place where strong families, good neighbors, engaged churches, fine schools and solid values meant a young girl was well prepared to make her way in the world. Along that journey, there have been many reasons to be proud of my hometown.

But never was I prouder than the evening I was privileged to witness the celebration of the successful launch of the Henderson Community Foundation. In the lovely setting of the new Fine Arts Center on the growing Henderson Community College campus, there unfolded the finest example of community leadership, vision and engagement that could be imagined.

Establishment of community foundations — and endowed funds targeted for every county in our Commonwealth — is a strategic objective of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative, a nonprofit I founded to advocate for private philanthropic investment in Kentucky. KPI commissioned and published a groundbreaking study on the transfer of wealth in Kentucky — an astounding $700 billion over 50 years — and provided leadership to establish the Endow Kentucky tax credit.

This amazing progressive legislation provides incentives for people of wealth to contribute to endowed funds in community foundations. These two things — and a “Give-back Kentucky” campaign — have encouraged many new funds around the state.

Community foundations are just that. They are designed to provide communities with the mechanism for building resources — in perpetuity — so that the funds generated provide a solid financial foundation to support quality of life in the community.

The beauty of this approach is that it allows everyone to participate. You do not have to be wealthy, though a community needs its wealth-builders to be involved.

The beauty of community foundations is that even the smallest donations, in a collective effort, add up to significance.

To make community foundations successful — and certainly to start them from scratch — requires a sparkplug.

Often an individual or a group of individuals who take on the effort — and give it their undivided devotion. In Henderson that sparkplug was insurance agent Chase Fulcher, a self-made, hardworking, rags-to-riches success story himself.

Chase just couldn’t walk away; raising funds to give the foundation a good start became his “most important life’s work.” He seized it with evangelistic fervor.

And before that magical night was over he had announced commitments of more than $1.6 million to the new Henderson Community Foundation. Donors included a who’s-who of Henderson, founding families and prosperous individuals, many of whom grew up in the nurturing bosom of the county and made quiet, hardworking successes of themselves.

Chase Fulcher will be quick to say he didn’t do it alone, but that’s almost an overstatement. He very nearly did, though the idea was born with a young leadership group who put the structure in place, a group led by Jennifer Preston and others, and enabled by an “older” leadership group that included Scott Davis, Dale Sights, Ronnie Jenkins, Herb McKee and others. The whole community should join in celebrating these good citizens who set out to make a big difference.

The difference will be a permanent one — a legacy of perpetual funds to underwrite all kinds of good works — scholarships, community development, schools, job training, beautification, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, creating new opportunities for your youth. The possibilities are limitless.

Now, how can everyday citizens help make a difference? By making your own personal commitment to support the new Henderson Community Foundation. Help build the general discretionary fund by including the foundation in your own personal giving. Contributions are tax deductible. All of them will go only to support your community. No donation is too small. Every penny counts. And pennies add up.

However the entire community is engaged, it’s important to engage everyone — that every person understand that they can and should be part of this terrific endeavor, that everyone feel part of it and feel welcome, that everyone “buys in” to the importance and impact of this great new resource.

Henderson’s own community foundation. Wow.

The writer is editor and publisher of www.KyForward.com, an online newspaper based in Kentucky. She formerly served as editor of The Kentucky Post and president of the Scripps Howard Foundation and is founder of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative. Contact her at judy@kyforward.com.

via The Gleaner