Brown County Community Foundation Celebrates 25 Years

by Larry Pejeau

Twenty five years. What does that mean for your Brown County Community Foundation (BCCF)? More importantly, what does it mean for the community we call home? Let’s walk back in time and remember how this organization came into existence.

The idea of a community foundation emerged from a county-wide visioning exercise, sponsored by the League of Women Votes, called “Brown County 2010” which started in 1989. Not surprisingly, the concept met early resistance. Some just did not believe the county would support a philanthropic entity whose mission was to define the community’s greatest needs and to develop the leadership and donors willing to address those needs in a county of only 15,000 people with no corporate presence.

In early 1993, Purdue County Extension Director for Brown County, Jon Cain, partnered with the League’s President, Ruth Reichmann, to promote the idea of a forming a community foundation and Jon agreed to be the chair of the “interim board of directors” of the BCCF. The organization attracted many other supporters including Del Newkirk and Jim Callahan, who put together the first set of bylaws. Over the years other community foundation pioneers, including Hank Swain, Missy Davis, Jim McDermott, and Terry Berryman, all continued to support the concept with their time and with gifts.

In its infancy, the BCCF was part of an alliance with the Bartholomew County’s Community Foundation “The Heritage Fund.” Dr. Reichmann stated, “As we developed our vision, it became apparent that we had one serious shortfall for realizing many of these dreams—funding.” Another foundation advocate, Stu Hoffman, shared information about how Lilly Endowment Inc. was helping communities establish community foundations through its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) Match Challenge. If Brown County could raise one million dollars, Lilly would match donations $1 for every $2 donated. With this challenge the first official board of directors was announced in the Brown County Democrat. Barton Updike was named the president and Jon Cain was vice president. Other board members were Ken Birkemeier, Jim Callahan, Sara Hess, Sam Johnson, Sue Lindborg, Del Newkirk, John Rudd, and Lee Waltman.

As challenges were successful met, new challenges and responsibilities emerged. In order to further its mission the BCCF hired its first executive director, Del Newkirk, in 1997 who, with the able assistance of his wife Letty, cheerfully accepted the challenge of growing the BCCF endowment and moving the organization successfully forward.

The positive impacts in the community that were the direct result of the Foundation’s presence and their success in leveraging Lilly GIFT challenges through parallel private donations, were apparent as was the growth and level of professionalism of the BCCF’s non-profit partners. By 2003, GIFT dollar matches had helped with the funding for two fire stations, much needed equipment at a third station, as well as helped with the building of the public library and the YMCA. GIFT dollar matches also helped with major renovation at the Art Gallery and the Humane Society. The C.A.P.E. grant from Lilly Endowment provided $5 million for new educational opportunities and the opening of the Career Resource Center.

Fast forward to today and other major projects, including the Project Helping Hands building, the new History Center, and the Brown County Playhouse—to name just a few—are now operating professionally due to the support of local philanthropy. Your community foundation now gives over $500,000 each year back to the community, supporting scholarships for pre-k students and high school graduates, as well as grants supporting the important missions of Brown County’s non-profit organizations and other charitable entities.

These success stories are what your community foundation has been involved with during the last 25 years. Now is a time to celebrate its birth and growth. The Foundation gratefully thanks those who have contributed to the successful and thriving philanthropic organization. The anniversary will be celebrated throughout 2018 with a number of events, contests, and many surprises. Keep your eyes and your ears open as you will see its presence and hear the cheerleading, showing appreciation for all of those who have believed in the power of philanthropy and set the stage for the Brown County Community Foundation’s vision for the future.

You can find more information at <> or stop by the office building in the north end of downtown Nashville at 209 North Van Buren Street. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.