By Rose S. Prinzi
As work on our up-coming Annual Meeting takes place, thoughts of our beginnings come to mind. This past year, we celebrated our 30th Anniversary. In light of this significant benchmark, it is only fitting that we pay tribute and recognize those responsible for the untold contributions they made in establishing the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
The establishment of the Foundation was not an easy undertaking. In fact, Eugene Struckoff, a nationally recognized expert on community foundations was contracted to investigate the feasibility of such an organization in our area. When he first arrived in Chautauqua County, he had his doubts that a community of our size could support a healthy community foundation. Furthermore, it was his experience that such organizations usually languished, rarely going over $1 million in assets. It was only after his visit to our area that he discovered what those living here already knew: our community is blessed with a population possessed with a strong sense of identity and community spirit; an active donor base; and a supportive financial community. Based on his findings, he soon discovered that a community foundation for our area was viable, and in 1978 the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation was born.
Once the decision was made, things moved quickly. Those individuals who were responsible for the creation of Chautauqua Region Community Foundation included Kenneth W. Strickler, Miles L. Lasser, Elizabeth S. Lenna, Samuel P. Price, Sr., John L. Sellstrom, and Richard W. Parker.
As long-time president of the Gebbie Foundation, John D. Hamilton was an avid supporter of the community foundation project and was instrumental in acquiring an initial grant for Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to begin our journey. With a $300,000 grant from the Gebbie Foundation, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation had its “seed” money to begin.
Ken Strickler was elected as the fledgling foundation’s first board president. With the help of the rest of the board of directors and Francis Grow, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s first Executive Director, the Foundation began to work with local banks and attorneys to reach its target goal of $1 million in assets in five years. In just one short year, the Chautauqua Region Community Fund, as it was first known, had bucked the odds to become a success story.
It took a group of forward-thinking, committed citizens to plant and nurture the seed for the foundation to take root and flourish three decades later. As a result of their dedication, time and leadership, hundreds of local organizations and thousands of area students have benefited from the thoughtful and deliberate actions of our founders.
We invite you to look for our 30th Annual Report which will be inserted in next weekend’s edition of The Post-Journal. In it you will find a timeline depicting our growth through the years.
The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, no longer fledgling, is 30 years old and deeply rooted in service to our area.