Truth Editorial: We are all part of making our community better
Posted: 02/03/2013 at 1:15 am
Gundlach, an Elkhart native who died in 2011, left the foundation about $150 million. His generosity has already started transforming the community.
Ultimately, however, the kind of place we become does not depend on the community foundation; it depends on all of us.
Prior to Gundlach’s gift, the community foundation managed $43 million in assets and distributed about $800,000 a year in grants. Now, with nearly $200 million to administer, the ECCF finds itself in a position to soon begin awarding $8 million annually.
But not just yet. Because before the community foundation can begin changing the community, it must first change itself.
Distributing $800,000 a year is one thing, but awarding 10 times that much requires new investment strategies and a comprehensive grasp of community needs. While the first change is largely internal, the second requires the foundation to look outward.
And it has.
Late last year, the foundation launched a listening tour and hopes to hear from as many as 2,000 people throughout the community. President Pete McCown called it “a formal research project” to discover how the people who live here believe the money can be best spent.
“What I want to see is what are the common, most frequent themes?” McCown told an Elkhart Truth reporter.
Some emerge immediately. Reducing childhood poverty, for instance. While more than 18 percent of the county as a whole lived behold the poverty threshold in 2011, among school-age children the rate was a crushing 25.9 percent. That puts this community at risk for a generation, medically, economically and socially.
The Horizon Alliance seeks to engage parents in education, improve learning readiness, and coordinate local schools, from K-12 through college and adult education — all to help the community build a modern workforce. That’s one way to attack childhood poverty, which the community foundation understands.
“The Horizon Education Alliance is a natural extension of our own interest in community development and quality of life,” McCown said, announcing a total of $560,000 in grants Jan. 24.
But other issues also demand attention: Hunger, drug addiction treatment, affordable child care, senior health care, public safety — the list could go on forever.
Thanks to Guy David Gundlach and other generous contributors, the Elkhart County Community Foundation suddenly finds itself with the resources to fundamentally change the place we live. But this isn’t a task for the foundation alone.
We are part of the process too; in the end, it is our responsibility to articulate the kind of community we wish to become.