By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Community Foundation of the Quincy Area celebrated its 15th anniversary Thursday by announcing a new initiative aimed at helping 13 counties in the Tri-state region.
The foundation announced it is offering up to $15,000 in matching funds to each county that starts its own County Endowment Fund through the charitable foundation.
Once established, each county's endowment fund will exist into perpetuity, and annual earnings on the fund's principal will be used to provide charitable support within the county.
The only requirement before the foundation will release its $15,000 match is that the participating county raise at least $15,000 initially to get the fund started. After that, more tax-deductible donations can be made into the county's fund at any time in the future to benefit charitable causes within the county.
If all 13 counties in the region take part, the Community Foundation's investment in matching funds will total $195,000.
Jill Arnold Blickhan, the foundation's executive director, said the foundation's matching dollars are coming from grants and certain unrestricted gifts and earnings that have built up ever since the foundation was created in November 1997.
Foundation officials say the new initiative is designed to make it easier for area residents to support charitable causes within the counties where they live.
"Whether we live in Lewis County, Mo., or Pike County, Ill., we share a common wish -- to preserve, maintain or improve our communities and county," Brian Ippensen, chairman of the Community Foundation's board of directors, said at Thursday's "friends of philanthropy celebration" at First Bankers Trust, 1201 Broadway.
"This match can bring people together to support local charitable needs and opportunities in each of our own counties," Ippensen said. "It will help retain local assets for today and tomorrow -- permanently -- for each county."
The new 13-county initiative grew out of a pilot program that was launched a couple of years ago in Pike County -- one of four Illinois counties served by the foundation. The others are Adams, Brown and Hancock counties. The foundation also serves Lee County, Iowa, and eight counties in Northeast Missouri: Clark, Knox, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls and Shelby.
During Thursday's gathering, two community leaders from Pike County, Ill., -- Don Kirk and Jim Gay -- told how they kept seeing valuable assets leave Pike County after elderly residents died. They wondered what could be done to encourage residents to make charitable bequests aimed at helping the county's residents.
Around that same time, Kirk and Gay heard a talk by an official with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks who told how charitable giving grew dramatically in that community after a community endowment program was started.
Kirk said he told Gay: "Maybe we should do that in Pike County."
So the two men approached the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area, which has a mission of "connecting people who care with causes that matter" in the Tri-state area. They were encouraged to establish an endowment program specifically to serve Pike County's charitable need.
With the Community Foundation's assistance, the endowment program was started in Pike County, and donations were sought initially from individuals and businesses.
Kirk told The Quincy Herald-Whig that more than $20,000 has been collected from donors in Pike County. He said a newly formed Pike County Fund Council, comprised of county residents, will meet next month to decide to how dispense some of the accumulated funds as grants to charitable causes in the county.
"It's not going to be huge, but it will be our first" distribution of grants, Kirk said.
Even though Pike County was the first local county to collect more than $15,000 for its county endowment fund, the Community Foundation is not yet releasing a challenge grant to Pike County because all counties are being required to start their $15,000 fund-raising campaigns as of Thursday.
"In order to get a match, they'll have to do it again -- and they will," Blickhan said.
The Community Foundation's role for the past 15 years has been to help area donors set up charitable funds to benefit whatever group or causes they wish. Donations to the various funds get pooled and are invested. Over time, as earnings grow and the principal remains untouched, each fund can then provide a perpetual stream of annual grants to designated recipients.
Since the first grants were issued in 1999, the foundation has released more than 1,200 grants totaling $1.75 million, Blickhan said. She said that money had gone to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations to enhance arts and culture, for community betterment, to improve education, and to aid health and human service needs.
Since the Community Foundation was formed, more than 130 different funds have been established while total assets within those funds have climbed to around $14 million, Blickhan said.
More information about the foundation is available on its website -- mycommunityfoundation.org -- or by calling (217) 222-1237 or sending email to email@example.com.