It all started with a vision.
Thirty-five years ago, John Hamilton had a vision for the Chautauqua region that inspired others to promote education, philanthropy and community spirit. On Saturday, Sept. 7, that vision was celebrated at Moon Brook Country Club during the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s annual presentation of the John D. Hamilton Community Service Award.
Since 1994, the Hamilton Award has been presented to an individual, or group, that has had an impact on the Chautauqua Region through their dedication, leadership and support in furthering community spirit and enhancing the quality of life in the Chautauqua region.
According to the foundation’s executive director, Randy Sweeney, this year’s award ceremony was a little different. Instead of honoring one person, the selection committee chose to honor the 11 former presidents of the Board of Directors.
“Being our 35th anniversary, it is important to recognize those that led our organization to where it is today,” Sweeney said.
Among those honored at Saturday’s event were Kenneth W. Strickler, Craig P. Colburn, Gregory L. Peterson, Tyler C. Swanson, Donald L. Meyer, Randy M. Ordines, Max R. Pickard, Kristy B. Zabrodsky, Michael D. Metzger, Lyman A. Buck and Stephen J. Wright.
Also in attendance, to present each honoree with an engraved plaque, was Hope Pettegrew, Hamilton’s daughter, and her husband Bob.
Strickler, who is also a founding member of the foundation, brought everyone back to 1978 and discussed the early days of meeting with Hamilton and other community visionaries as Hamilton conveyed his concept of a public foundation to address the needs of the Chautauqua region.
“The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation I don’t think would exist today if it were not for John Hamilton and his concept. I am sure he would be pleased at the accomplishments the foundation has made to this point,” Strickler said.
Some of those accomplishments that were relived throughout the evening include reaching $10 million during Colburn’s tenure in 1989, establishing a successful scholarship program during Peterson’s tenure, receiving National Standards accreditation from the Council on Foundations in 2006, taking a strong leadership position in downtown development and promoting the importance of unrestricted giving.
Wright, who served from 2010-2012, was president when preparations for the 35th anniversary began and focused on developing the Caring and Giving campaign to increase unrestricted giving.
“No one could have known in 1978 what the Chautauqua region would look like today and we certainly can’t know what it’s going to look like 35 years from now,” Wright said. “One thing is for certain, the needs will be different than they are today. The founders recognized this 35 years ago and it’s as true today as it was then, the Fund for the Region will give the foundation the flexibility to address those needs as they are determined.”
Some of those needs that have been addressed over the past 35 years include the maintenance of Chautauqua Lake, educational and recreational programs for youth, quality healthcare, neighborhood revitalization, and environmental initiatives.