On Oct. 2, 1954, a tragedy claimed the lives of Lakewood's Walter and Grace Hazzard. After leaving an all-day meeting of Chautauqua County Historical Society, the Hazzards' car struck another vehicle head-on, killing the elderly couple.
They've been dead for 57 years, but the couple lives on through the Walter and Grace Hazzard Scholarship Fund, a bequest which has benefited 1,665 graduating seniors since Chautauqua Region Community Foundation acquired it in 1984. The total number of Hazzard scholarship recipients far exceeds that total.
Diane Benson benefited from the Hazzard fund back in 1962, when she graduated from Jamestown High School. "I received the Walter and Grace Hazzard Scholarship, which stipulated that students had to have savings through work experiences. The Hazzard fund would then match the students' savings for college expenses," said Ms. Benson, who earned her money through baby-sitting and various odd jobs. "At that time, the fund was administered by Bank of Jamestown. When the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation was formed, the Hazzard scholarship became a significant part of it."
Roland Swanson of Kennedy supports two scholarships through Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, including one named after the Island X-11 Navy SEABEES.
P-J photo by Scott Shelters
Long before the creation of CRCF, Ms. Benson used the Hazzard scholarship to help with the expenses of her studies at JCC and SUNY Fredonia, where she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education. Throughout her years of higher education and teaching, Ms. Benson never lost sight of the legacy the Hazzards left behind. "I think the scholarship and its stipulations showed the work ethic of the Hazzard family," she said. "I think Walter and Grace Hazzard would be very pleased that their family has helped so many people. They have left a remarkable legacy."
Today, Ms. Benson continues to get a first-hand view of that assistance through her involvement with CRCF. "For the past 10 years, I've had the opportunity to serve on various committees reading scholarship applications. Along with this year's recipients, I continue to remain very appreciative of the financial aid," she said. "This has gone full circle for me. As a 17- or 18-year-old, I needed financial aid. Now, I'm on several different committees reading scholarships."
As a former recipient of the scholarship, Ms. Benson said she doesn't take the evaluation process lightly. "As a retired English teacher from Frewsburg Central School, I look for good writing and an essay that responds passionately to the question from year to year."
Lucas Liuzzo, a 2010 Jamestown High School graduate, managed to meet the scholarship's requirements, which stipulate that applicants must possess a B-plus average at Cassadaga Valley, Falconer, Frewsburg, Maple Grove, Panama or Southwestern schools.
"It was really great to have some kind of financial support. Every little bit you can get helps," said Liuzzo, who is now in his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, where he studies atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences. "Without that support, I wouldn't be going here. I didn't want to be $120,000 in debt when I graduate."
For Liuzzo, knowing the legacy of the Hazzard family and other scholarship donors played an important role in his scholarship application processes. "If you don't fulfill their needs, you're probably not going to get their scholarship. It's important to know what you're applying for," he said. "It wasn't really too hard to apply. It was an easy and worthwhile process overall."
EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS
More than 500 individuals have created funds with Chautauqua Region Community Foundation since its creation 33 years ago. These individuals entrusted the foundation to carry out their charitable wishes, regardless of how big or small their contributions were.
At times, families choose to meet with Community Foundation officials after tragedy strikes. "There are lots of tragic stories which are making the quality of life better now for others," said Randy Sweeney, the foundation's executive director. "When people die, especially young people, families use the foundation to make something good out of something bad."
Although many Community Foundation funds have been created from bequests or in memory of lost loved ones, some come from everyday Chautauqua County citizens during their lifetimes. "You don't have to have a million dollars to start a fund," Sweeney said. "Roland and Doris Swanson, two middle-class, hardworking people wanted to give something back, so they started one."
In 2004, the Swansons created the Roland A. and Doris M. Swanson Fund, which assists a graduating senior with a B or better average from Jamestown, Southwestern, Frewsburg, Falconer or Maple Grove high schools who wishes to pursue a degree in nursing or from an accredited seminary.
"Doris and I talked about it for some years. We thought we ought to do something," Roland Swanson said. "My grandmother wanted me to become a minister, and Doris was a nurse, so that's the idea of our scholarship."
Planning for the scholarship began long before 2004, according to Swanson. "It goes back a long time. It just took time to cultivate it," he said. "I still fund it. In fact, I just got a thank-you note the other day. It's always been a thrill to us when we received a thank-you note from a student who received an award. We just felt good about it."
The Swansons' fund may not pay for every expense the graduating seniors will face in college. However, Roland and Doris always felt good about giving what they could. "Each time, we were thrilled because we were helping somebody," he said. "Maybe it was only enough to buy a couple of books, but we're building it up. We just believed it was a good community thing to do."
Swanson donates to more than just the scholarship created by him and his wife. "I also support our local Navy SEABEE scholarship fund," said Swanson, a World War II SEABEE and founding member of Island X-11 New York Navy SEABEE Veterans.
"We established that a couple years ago through the death of one of our members from the Buffalo area," he said. "He left us some money, and we started a fund. We thought this was a good way to keep his legacy alive."
It didn't take long for the Island X-11 New York Navy SEABEE Veterans/John Oleszak Memorial Scholarship Fund to assist a graduating senior. "We've already given out a scholarship there, and it's only been two years," Swanson said. "The fella who got the award last year was continuing his education in welding. You just have to be in one of the trades."
Using CRCF to fulfill their charitable desires made sense for Doris, who passed away in July, and for Roland. "I think the CRCF office staff is tremendous," he said. "I think they all have a real interest in the community area."
ANOTHER WAY TO GIVE
Some Chautauqua County residents choose to provide money directly to the foundation, rather than creating their own funds. That money is used for unrestricted, or community service, funds, which the foundation uses to meet the needs of the region on a timely basis.
The City of Jamestown Tree Planting Program has benefited from this type of funding. According to city arborist Dan Stone, the program has benefited from $38,000 in grant money from CRCF. As a result, the city has planted 340 trees since 2006.
In the past, Stone has used the tree-planting process to pique the interests Jamestown Public Schools students. "Getting the kids involved with the planting gives them a sense of ownership and community pride," Stone said. "We've had Jamestown High School seniors outside on a freezing cold Saturday morning planting trees. We can expose some of these teachers and students to it when they otherwise wouldn't have known about the program."
Thanks to CRCF, Stone said he has been able to do something new in recent years. "I've been able to plant at least one-third more trees each year for the past five years," he said. "The past couple years, that funding has allowed me to plant more trees than I've removed. I hope that continues. The thing with the tree-planting program is you'll see the impacts of this for decades down the road."
CRCF will provide interested parties the opportunity to learn more about supporting its initiatives at its annual open house on Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the Foundation office, 418 Spring St., Jamestown. If you would like more information on the CRCF open house or wish to learn more about the foundation, call 661-3390 or visit www.crcfonline.org.