Two recent grants allow the Community Foundation to help organizations that give aid directly to Lorain County residents.
By Brian Frederick
Last year I had to say no to a donor who wanted to establish a scholarship fund for the children of a family whose parents were tragically killed. This is an example of one of the hardest types of conversations I’ve had in my 19 years at the Community Foundation.
I empathize deeply for those who want to help with medical bills or the future education of the victims and I often feel compelled to do something myself. The outpouring of community support in these situations gives me continued faith in the generosity of the residents of Lorain County in supporting their neighbors.
But despite my personal feelings, charitable laws that govern the foundation prevent us from establishing such a fund. Federal IRS code says that we can’t use charitable dollars to benefit one individual unless there is a fair and equitable process to select from a large group of people, such as with a competitive scholarship.
I understand the logic and its intent to prevent charitable funds abused/misused for personal benefit. This doesn’t make the conversations any easier. I generally refer the compassionate friend or family member to a local bank, many of which are more than happy to set up a special account to benefit the individual. The gifts aren’t tax deductible but tax deductibility is not the reason people are making the gift.
Even though we cannot award funds to directly support an individual, two grants we awarded recently allow us to help organizations that CAN give aid directly to Lorain County residents.
Hebrew Free Loan Association lends interest-free loans.
A $25,000 grant to the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Northeast Ohio (HFLA) to pilot an interest-free loan program in Lorain County. For more than a century, the HFLA has been lending interest-free loans to people in Northeast Ohio who don’t have access to conventional lending. The loans are made to individuals for emergencies (utilities, rent & car repairs), to escape from predatory lending, to further their education, or for small businesses. These interest-free loans can be the spark that can change lives and families.
Karen P. Nakon Foundation helping breast cancer patients and their families.
The second was a $20,000 grant to the Karen P. Nakon Breast Cancer Foundation to provide direct financial assistance to Lorain County residents undergoing breast cancer treatment. The Nakon Foundation works with those whose health and financial stability are ravaged by this disease, assisting with costs related to housing costs and utilities, transportation, and medical treatment.
Cancer victims have a much greater chance of becoming cancer survivors if they can focus on health and wellness without the stress of having to worry about finances.
I’m so very proud of our grants that provide food for those who are hungry, a shelter for the homeless and support hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofit staff who provide invaluable assistance for our fellow citizens.
Our grants build the capacity of our nonprofit sector and improve our quality of life and place. But I have to say that the above two grants hold a special place in my heart because they allow others to do what we cannot – to provide a direct financial hand up to individuals in need.