It's safe to say the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, an organization founded in 1978 with $300,000 in seed money from the Gebbie Foundation and the vision of eight community pillars, is a resounding success.
The foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. From that initial $300,000 investment has grown an organization that now has a $61.8 million endowment, administers 536 individual funds and awarded more than $1 million in scholarships for the 2013-14 academic year. Over 35 years, the foundation has given $37,616,828 back to the community
While impressive, the numbers don't adequately convey the foundation's impact on the region.
There is a person or community group on the receiving end of every one of the nearly $2 million the foundation gives each year - students who get help going to college, artists who receive money to enhance their talents, neighborhoods made a little better for area residents and hundreds of worthy projects that are brought to fruition each year with CRCF dollars.
Foundation officials are using this 35th anniversary to embark on a campaign to expand the foundation's unrestricted funds through the Caring and Giving campaign.
Currently, 26 percent of its assets are unrestricted. That nearly $17 million is to help a variety of community needs. Unrestricted funds are used on economic development activities like Chautauqua Lake and the revitalization of downtown Jamestown and its neighborhoods; health care programs such as the support of WCA Hospital and endeavors to help recruit physicians to the area; education opportunities for the next generation including STEM education and Dream It! Do It! programming; and arts and leisure activities, including support of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Fenton History Museum and the Jamestown Audubon Society.
Foundation officials recognize there will be tremendous challenges facing the Chautauqua region in the next 35 years and want to be in a position to help by building the CRCF's unrestricted assets. The CRCF's founders - Kenneth W. Strickler, John D. Hamilton, Miles L. Lasser, Betty J. Erickson, Francis B. Grow, Marion A. Panzarella, Carl M. Cappa and Elizabeth S. Lenna - knew full well the value of unrestricted funds. This year's Caring and Giving campaign pays tribute to the vision of those eight founders and to the foundation's past success by laying the groundwork for its future. Those who want to help can visit www.crcfonline.org for more information.
A donation is the best way for a thankful community to express its thanks to an organization that has already done so much.