Community Foundation brings an international honor to Lorain
Morning Journal Editorial, September 24, 2004
Around here, if you say the name “Lorain County,” people immediately think about brawny steel mills and automaking. But in Europe, say “Lorain County” and a growing number of people think about community philanthropy.
Surprised? Then you’ll be even more surprised that 16 philanthropic officials from all over Europe and North America are in Lorain through Sunday, sharing ideas and working on a common means for their community foundations to gauge how well they are doing.
Lorain County isn’t home to fabulously wealthy and generous money-givers like the legendary Andrew Carnegie; this is home mostly to folks of modest means who want to see their money put to good use. That’s where the non-profit Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County comes in, marshalling many modest donations into a hefty financial force for good.
The foundation, started in 1980 with a $500,000 challenge grant from the Nordson Foundation, now manages about $60 million in donor funds. It studies funding requests and then distributes upwards of $3 million a year in grants and scholarships within the guidelines of donors’ wishes.
The local foundation’s vigorous growth and excellent reputation as a well-run philanthropy won it notice overseas where the American concept of community foundations has caught on and is experiencing tremendous growth. To facilitate this philanthropic activity, the Transatlantic Community Foundation Network was created in 1999 with money from the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Michigan. It now involves 45 foundations in 14 countries. Bertelsmann is picking up the tab for the gathering here.
Community foundation grants now go to work all over the world and do more than provide money for worthy activities; they’ve also helped to build and improve social relationships in ways that are gratifying, even if unexpected.
The Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County is a showcase member of the transatlantic network, hence the working group meeting here by representatives from community foundations in Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
It’s great to see Lorain County highly regarded from such a new perspective, and for that you can thank local foundation president Brian Frederick, his staff, the board of directors, and most of all, the generous, good-hearted people of Lorain County who combined their wealth in the foundation, creating a whole that surely is bigger than the sum of its parts. That’s what “community” is.
To our international guests, and to their local hosts, we extend out thanks and gratitude for their good works.