Creating a foundation to build on

·4 min read

Jul. 30—New Lawrence County Community Foundation starts with $2M endowment

A new organization has been created with the goal of improving Lawrence County and it has $2 million to get things going.

Called the Lawrence County Community Foundation, it was started to nurture philanthropy throughout the county. Its formation was announced at the end of the Lawrence County Economic Development's meeting on Thursday morning at the courthouse.

LEDC director Bill Dingus said the foundation will be able to do things like give a no-interest loan to a small business that needs economic help but doesn't necessarily qualify for a conventional bank loan.

The new foundation was started with help of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio which matches up to $1 million after funding comes from Lawrence County sources. The Lawrence County Commission, the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO and the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation provided $250,000 each and the foundation is looking for another $250,000 from other people or entities. How those funds are used will be guided by a Community Foundation board consisting of entities who helped with seed funding of the project.

Dingus said that over the years, he had watched as other counties created foundations, and wanted something similar in Lawrence County. A few years ago, the State of Ohio gave the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio $20 million to create new philanthropy foundations. Dingus said they were contacted a couple of time by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio about starting a foundation but at $250,000 or $500,000 level.

"I said 'Make that a million and we will talk about uniting to match your money so we can have a $2 million endowment,'" Dingus said. "Well, they called a few weeks ago and said they had a couple of counties that couldn't match the plan and we have a position where we can allocate $1 million, if you in Lawrence County can match $1 million."

Dingus said that he contacted the CAO about putting in $250,000 and the board agreed to it, as did the commissioners and the board of the LEDC.

Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said the commissioners could not be more pleased to be a part of the founding membership for the Lawrence County Community Foundation.

She said that too often that when opportunity arose they weren't able to take advantage of it.

"But today is a different day, opportunity knocked and we were able to accept," she said.

She said that too often she saw people with great ideas but there wasn't the support mechanism to help push them to the next level and that the new foundation "is a turning point for Lawrence County, that we are going to be able to identify needs and have the resources to support them" and this foundation can help create a strong, solid base to help people.

Ironton-Lawrence County CAO executive director D.R. Gossett took the podium next and said that getting the initial money for a project is the hardest part.

"If you have something up and going, you might be able to find investments, you might be able to find grants," he said. "But, when you have speculation, when you have need, it is kind of silent. So that's what exciting about a foundation, you get to invest in things that really can spark something special."

He explained that the mission statement of the CAO is to improve the community by providing opportunities and to have their customers seize on those opportunities.

"This foundation gives us a tool to see opportunities," Gossett said. "I think the funds will be strategically invested and I am excited about it. I couldn't be more happy with the foundation."

Dan Evans, LEDC president, said that when Dingus brought the idea to the LEDC they were all very encouraged at the possibilities.

"We are going to affect Lawrence County from now on and forever," he said. "This foundation will continue to grow. There will be lots of opportunities to provide seed money for special projects — anything that will benefit the community."

Tracy Mann, the director of planned giving for Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, said it was very exciting and a privilege to be in Lawrence County for the creation of the foundation.

She said there are 14 foundations under the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio's umbrella because it is their passion to let community have flexible dollars to invest in things that are needed for the future.

She said that many times, when a community gets money in, it has to be used for something specific, while the foundation's money is flexible.

"That's money you can use for you can use for your biggest needs and opportunities, not just for today but for the future," she said. "I truly believe that efforts you are making with the foundation, they are going to make such a difference in the way the county looks in the future. The possibilities are going to be endless, much greater than you can imagine."