Community foundations help keep dollars helping at home

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
Foundations established in the cities of Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody are making it easy for area residents to make tax-deductible contributions and support local programs at the same time.

The foundations are part of a growing trend of community-based foundations designed to fund special projects, provide long term support for local programs and organizations, and ensure that dollars given locally stay in the communities.

Hillsboro Community Foundation

This year, Hillsboro residents may make tax-deductible gifts to help purchase a thermal-imaging camera that can detect smoke and heat for the Hillsboro Fire Department.

The project was made possible by the new Hillsboro Community Foundation created last April.

“We had been talking about a community foundation for a number of years,” said Mike Kleiber, foundation chairman. “We have seen the benefits in some other communities, and we finally stepped forward.”

Kleiber said donors have several choices for where their money goes.

“They can go to a specific project or they can be general funds,” he said. “But most of the time, they are project specific.”

Kleiber said one real advantage of the foundation is that it provides a tax-free method of funding community projects.

“A lot of times there are projects within the community that people would donate to, but the organization doesn’t have the designation to be a charitable organization,” he said. “If they channel it through the foundation, that makes sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”

He said the first project tackled by the foundation is the camera for the fire department. To date, about half the funds have been donated for the $10,000 camera.

“We hope to take on some bigger projects in the future,” Kleiber said. “Honestly, it’s the community’s foundation, so the foundation can be used to channel funds for any project that people feel is important and that fits under our criteria.”

Marion Advancement Campaign

The Marion Advancement Campaign (MAC), a foundation benefiting the Marion community, is project oriented too. But this group has set its sights on one big project.

“Our first project is to try and build a community center for weddings and special events along with a two-screen movie theater,” said MAC board member Gene Winkler.

“We have no theater in this area. We have no place for a big sit-down type event, a wedding dance or family reunion,” he added. “We just don’t have any big areas at all.”

Winkler said they are planning to apply for a Kan-Step grant from the state to fund part of the estimated $800,000 needed for the project.

Both Burns and Lincolnville have received Kan-Step grants to help build community centers.

“They will pay up to $400,000 on a 60/40 match,” he said. “The 40 percent has to be volunteer labor.”

Although the grant would fund a large part of the cost, private donations are still needed, Winkler said.

“If they give $400,000 and we have $200,000 of volunteer labor, that still leaves $200,000 of cash that we’re going to have to come up with,” he said.

Winkler said they were working to create special recognition incentives for large donations.

“Like you can buy a seat in the theater for x number of dollars, or for a certain amount of dollars you can have a theater named after you. Or you can have the community center named after you,” he said.

The foundation received its 501(c)(3) designation earlier this year and has already raised more than $40,000 toward the project.

“I would like to see us do some more fund-raisers this winter and have enough money by spring to start the project,” Winkler said. “We’ve been working with the architect to come up with the plans for this.”

He said the facility will be located north of the baseball field on five acres of land donated by the Vogel family.

The project will include a 65-foot-by-110-foot community center, a game room, and two theaters that will show first-run movies, Winkler said.

“The seating area in the two theaters will be 210 seats,” he said. “By having two theaters, we can alternate so we have a new movie starting every week.”

The idea for a combination community center/theater came from community input.

“When we started this, we asked the people ‘what do we need?'” he said.

Topping the list were a community center, theater, indoor swimming pool and skating rink.

“We thought these two projects could be put in the same building and would be the place to start,” Winkler said. “We’ve got enough land that if we get this project done and it goes well, who’s to say we can’t go back and ask for another grant to put in an indoor pool or a skating rink or whatever.

“I hope this is just the first of many projects.”

Peabody Community Fund

The oldest of the three foundations, the Peabody Community Fund (PCF), was created in 2001 to support local organizations and projects and ensure that funds given to Peabody organizations stay in Peabody and continue to benefit the community.

Donations may be directed to an unrestricted fund, an administrative fund, or to any of the organization-specific funds that have been established.

To date, funds have been created for the Peabody Main Street Association, the Peabody Historical Society, and Peabody-Burns USD 398.

New funds may be established for a minimum donation of $2,000, said N.M. Patton, PCF president.

In addition to providing permanent endowments for local organizations, the PCF also awards a grant each year to fund a project that will benefit the community.

Recently a $300 grant was awarded to the Peabody Township Library and Peabody Historical Society for installation of lights outside the north entrance to the library. The light fixtures were salvaged from the old Peabody High School when the building was demolished several years ago.

“Our long-term goal is to build the unrestricted fund to where it is large enough to give out over $5,000 per year in grants to local clubs to use to improve the Peabody community,” said Patton.

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