By Joni Blackman, Director
Fenton History Center
I have noticed in my short tenure as the Fenton History Center Director that our personal legacies make themselves known around the same time we receive our AARP card. In order to leave a legacy, you need a few years under your belt, a variety of life expenses, and dreams for the future. Maturity gives us the eyes to see why our past is important to future generations.
The Fenton History Center has had endowment funds administered by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation since 1983. Forward-thinking Board of Trustee members saw the value of saving now for the future. The funds are permanently restricted to support specific programs and expenses.
The Fenton Historical Society, doing business as the Fenton History Center, has three funds at the Community Foundation. One to support general operations of the society, one to support the research center and artifact acquisitions, and the last one supports the care of the collections. They are very important to the overall health of the organization. They help keep the core mission of the Center alive. It is important that these funds keep growing. With that in mind, the Board of Trustees and a few dedicated Society members have taken on the exciting and necessary task of building the fund balances to support Fenton’s services to the community.
The first step in any endowment building program is to build awareness of the project. We have all seen the large capital campaigns that last a short period of time; however, an endowment program, while it has a strong beginning effort, continues for the life of the organization. In Fenton’s case, it is fueled by community-minded citizens who see the value of our local history and include the Fenton History Center’s endowment funds in their yearly community donations, through a gift annuity, and/or a final bequest in their will. They can also leave a legacy to the Fenton through a fund set up in their name at the Community Foundation for a program or service that holds a special interest for them.
The property known as the Hall Memorial Home, located on Forest Avenue, became a part of the Fenton Campus this past spring. The property will eventually be the administration and research center hub of the Center. It will allow the Fenton Mansion to be further restored, interpreted and used to teach our rich Western New York past. As we all know, property maintenance is not cheap. But, with the membership’s leadership and the community’s help, the Fenton Campus will be a tourism destination that also fulfills the Fenton History Center’s mission of collection, preserving and telling our local history stories to all ages. Building the Campus requires the Center to also build the Fenton Historical Society Endowment Fund to support the operation of the Hall Home property. This is a very good example of how many contributions can make a big difference.
Please think about how you are going to leave your legacy and how the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation can help.