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Group celebrates 20 years of giving

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By Chris Sardelli

A large group of guests gathered at the Springs House on Tuesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Lancaster County Community Foundation.

Supporters, board members and previous grant winners mingled over wine and hors d’oeuvres, while honoring the foundation for its work in community philanthropy. The foundation is a permanent endowment that grants awards to nonprofit organizations and provides charitable gifts in Lancaster County. Past grantees include CareNet, Christian Services, Eastside Academy, Habitat for Humanity of Lancaster County, the University of South Carolina at Lancaster and the Lancaster County School District.

Robert Folks, chairman of the foundation’s board, thanked the crowd for their support. He said the foundation has been extremely successful in strengthening the community.

“We go back 20 years because the forefathers of our organization had the sense to think it would be proper for our community,” Folks said. “Since then we’ve been at work doing good things.”

Folks cited several recent accomplishments by the foundation.

It recently approved $3,000 for child fingerprinting equipment in the county as a means to quickly identify missing children. The foundation also recently committed $5,000 toward the restoration and repair of the Lancaster Courthouse.

Folks said the grants the foundation awards may be small, but he said modest grants can do a lot of good for people in need.

One of those people is Shirnetha Belk, who works with at-risk youth at Eastside Academy. She was on hand to celebrate and told the crowd how the foundation has helped her school.

Beginning in 1994, the foundation has helped the school obtain funding for various school projects and programs.

 In 2007, the school was awarded $2,500 for its Reaching Out program, where seventh- and eighth-grade students mentor fourth- and fifth-grade students from Clinton Elementary School.

“I have to thank the community foundation for all the collaborative efforts we’ve been able to do,” Belk said. “The foundation has always been there to support a lot of our efforts.”

Julie Suekoro, a foundation board member, said the foundation is vital to Lancaster County.

“We’re fortunate to have a foundation like this in the community,” Suekoro said. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”

The foundation is one of 13 affiliates of the Foundation For The Carolinas, a nonprofit umbrella corporation that provides charitable assistance. Foundation For The Carolinas recorded $803 million in assets in 2007, making it one of the top 20 community organizations in the United States. The organization had more than $691 million in assets as of Sept. 30 and has distributed $68 million in grants so far this year.

Vicki Jones, vice president of community philanthropy at the Foundation For The Carolinas,  educates donors on charitable giving opportunities through the foundation.

Despite a slow economy, she said the organization still remains one of the larger community organizations in the country.

“We are impacted by the market as everyone is, but our long-term growth fund for endowments is still exceeding benchmarks,” Jones said. “We have a pretty impressive investment team.”

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416