Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty: Built on Community Pride
By Staff Report
The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty is built upon community pride and that longstanding sense of community aims to transform generosity into impact. In 2019, assets under the foundation’s management surpassed $17M, a 12 percent increase over 2018.
Since 1999, the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty has been the primary resource for philanthropy in West Chester and Liberty Townships, providing a variety of charitable funds and gift options for donors. Donations to the foundation totaled $2.2M in 2019.
Celebrating 20 years!
“Now, are we over 20 years old. We celebrated our 20th year last year, and now that is it is 2020, it is our 21st year, so we are still young, and growing. We oversee $17 million in assets. Of that, 80 percent of the assets are endowed, which is a great thing,” said Erin Clemons, president and CEO, Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty.
Community foundations are the community trust fund, and we are here to be a resource on the needs, assess the needs and then grant substantial dollars to meet those needs, she said.
In 2019, the Community Foundation facilitated $1.2M in grants from donor funds to organizations serving the community and causes important to donors.
“We’re very focused on helping people with their charitable aspirations, in working with financial planners, attorney’s, as well as CPA’s, on when would it be right for somebody to open a fund, because obviously, the more funds we have under management, the more we can do for the community,” Clemons said.
Eight new funds opened in 2019, totaling more than $300,000 in new assets.
“In another 50 years, we would love to be where the Hamilton Community Foundation is and a lot of these other great community foundation’s that have a long history, like those that were founded in the 1950’s or earlier. So, we are just working on growing, assessing the needs, and making sure that we are having the biggest impact as possible,” Clemons said.
The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty started around a kitchen table and was created by a group of civic-minded individuals with a common goal. They have come to be known as the Kitchen Table Board, and their intent was to create an organization to benefit West Chester and Liberty Township, to establish a sense of place within these two growing communities and improve the quality of life for those who live in West Chester and Liberty Township.
Initial funds came from the group’s first fundraising event in 1994, which benefited the American Cancer Society. The foundation was born out of the Key Event, a cocktail/dinner party held at several homes in the area, which raised more than $11,000. The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty was established in 1999.
In 2019, 35 Scholarships were awarded to local students, totaling more than $65,000. Examples of scholarships include the Hoody Memorial Scholarship for graduating seniors of Lakota East and Lakota West High Schools and the Dunaway Family Scholarship for graduating seniors from Mason High School. The Bob Lawhorn Education Fund Scholarship awards four years of undergraduate tuition to the University of Cincinnati for graduating seniors from Norwood High School. For a more in depth overview of the of scholarships and grants, go to www.wclfoundation.org. Scholarship applications are typically due in February of each year.
“We have some excellent, substantial scholarships, which really help students,” Clemons said.
In other efforts, the Community Grants Fund awarded $104,000 in 2019 to a variety of nonprofit organizations serving West Chester and Liberty Township for programming that supports Education, Transportation, and Workforce Development initiatives.
Nonprofits that received funding included City Gospel Mission (Whiz Kids Tutoring & Mentoring); Junior Achievement OKI Partners (Financial Literacy & Work Readiness); Lakota Local Schools (ID Anti-Bullying Project); Family Promise of Butler County (Family Transportation Needs); Voice of America Museum (MetroPark/Museum Connector Path); Lakota Robotics (STEM Job Skills Programming) and Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty Teen (Workforce Readiness.)
The Community Grants Fund typically awards over $100,000, annually. A hundred percent of the proceeds from the Shamrock Shuffle go into the Community Grants Fund, and the funds go back out into the community. In the past, more than 5,000 people have come together to support the St. Patrick’s Day-themed Shamrock Shuffle. Shamrock Shuffle was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“This year, with COVID-19, we actually were the very first Southwestern Ohio Community Health Fund established, because the Shamrock Shuffle was cancelled on March 12…We felt like this is a real issue that we need to make sure we’re meeting head on,” Clemons said.
The Community Health Fund was established on March 12 to meet emergency needs in West Chester and Liberty Township, and $100,000 was allocated for COVID-19 issues, including the emergency needs and supporting nonprofits that have been impacted as a result of COVID-19.
“Reach Out Lakota, our local food bank, has received a substantial amount of dollars, because of that need,” Clemons said, “We wanted to make sure we were fulfilling and meeting the need for the food pantry and the families in our community.”
Other funding from the Community Health Fund has been allocated to UC West Chester Hospital, St. Vincent de Paul, Atrium Medical Center, Christ Hospital, the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty, Pink Ribbon Girls, GMV East Butler YMCA, Lakota Robotics, American Legion Post, among others. More than $77,000 has been granted to these organizations, addressing primary needs such as food, shelter, childcare and healthcare.
To learn more, donate to the Community Health Fund, or download a Covid-19
Clemons attributes the foundation’s success to the donors, the foundation’s staff, board of directors and the people in West Chester and Liberty Township.
“It’s a place where you know your neighbors, and you help out your neighbors, and you love where you grew up, so you want to see your children and grandchildren enjoy this community like you have,” she said, “That sense of community has been a big attribute to the success of the foundation, as well as the board, and their leadership and direction, and their push to have a strategic plan.”
We have our pulse on the needs in the community. We perform needs assessments, and that’s something that’s done every five to ten years, so we know what are the true needs of our community, because they are going to be different than the needs in the other Butler County communities, Clemons said.
“Then, honing in on, focusing, and helping to be a resource for those needs, so I think that is a wonderful thing that we do, and it gives me great pride. And the communication channels are open with all the local leaders in West Chester and Liberty Township,” Clemons said.
To connect with the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, or to make a donation, visit www.wclfoundation.org, or call (513) 874-5450. Community members can also find the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty on Facebook and LinkedIn. The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty will soon be moving to Olde West Chester, (to the current the Harvest Financial Advisors building.) The anticipated date for the move is mid-November to December 2020.
“We are really excited to be in a great area that is full of history in West Chester,” Clemons said.