Fairfield Community Foundation: Impacting the Quality of Life in Greater Fairfield

By Staff Report

The Fairfield Community Foundation continues to impact the quality of life in
Greater Fairfield through the grants it awards to nonprofits and the scholarships it
provides to students on an on-going basis.

Through a collaboration between the Fairfield Community Foundation and Community Development Professionals, they award their first Sustainability Award to Fairfield Prevention Coalition.

The Fairfield Community Foundation was incorporated in 1999 as a not-for-profit
by a group of dedicated Fairfield and Fairfield Township businessmen. Since then, the foundation has grown to hold nearly $4 million in assets. In 2019, the foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“One of the things that we really focus on is the needs of the community,
because our mission is to enhance and strengthen the quality of life for citizens of
Greater Fairfield,” said Linda Yarger, president of the Fairfield Community Foundation.

“In order to do that, we did a needs assessment to find out, really, what are the
needs of the community, and we do that periodically,” she said, “And, the last time, we hired a consultant company and they came up with three areas of need. One was education, one was addiction, and the other was homelessness.”She said when the report came out, and homelessness was mentioned, it was
like, “Not in Fairfield. We can’t imagine that,” but in fact, there is a fair amount of
homelessness in Fairfield. That doesn’t mean that they are sleeping on the street,
although some are, it means they just don’t have a permanent address. They might be couch surfing, living in a hotel, or going from one friend or relative to another, but it is a problem, and we work diligently with nonprofits to help take care of that.
“The last few years we have done a variety of different grants. We grant money
out each year to different nonprofit organizations. Additionally, I think this will be the fourth year that we have done a grant challenge, and the grant challenge is done at our annual meeting each year in October,” Yarger said.

Always a pleasure to award scholarship checks to the worthy graduates.

The grant challenge is above and beyond the regular grants that are awarded.
With the grant challenge, nonprofits submit a project they would like to work on, and the foundation’s committee picks two of those applicants that are presented with a grant at the annual meeting. Different sponsors support the grant challenge.
“We’ve been really blessed to have really great applicants that connect well with
our mission,” Yarger said.

Last year, $3,500 was awarded to Dougie and Ray’s. They are a nonprofit, and
they work to pay for lunches that the children’s parents can’t pay for, so if there’s
a deficit in the lunch bill, then, Dougie and Ray’s pitches in to pay that.
Another $3,500 was awarded to Badin High School as a result of the grant
challenge. They did a project called “Outside the Box,” where they created tailor-made art boxes for those that couldn’t afford art supplies. Some of them are for those with disabilities and others are general art boxes, and they contained anything a child could use for an art class that they might otherwise not be able to afford.
“We work with these nonprofits, and we also follow up to make sure that they are
doing what they are supposed to be doing with the money. And, probably the most fun part of my job is seeing the fruits of their labor, knowing that money that’s raised by the foundation goes to good causes,” said Yarger.

The foundation has around 163 funds. About 50 of those are scholarship funds,
and the others are used for other things. They are donor-advised funds or they are
funds that are specific to particular areas such as gardening club funds.
“The Fairfield Community Foundation has a 13-member Board of Trustees. They
are very dedicated to working with us and helping us to accomplish our goals,” Yarger said.
Since its inception, the foundation has awarded scholarships and grants to deserving students and nonprofit organizations throughout the Greater Fairfield area, including scholarships for education, grants to aid the local food pantry, distributions to support the community's performing arts and funds to develop programs that make recreation accessible to all, and many others. In 2018, the Fairfield Community Foundation distributed about $64,000 in grants and more than $100,000 in scholarships.

Housed in the City Building in Fairfield since its inception, the Fairfield
Community Foundation provides a way for those who care about the community to
impact it in a positive way through permanent and growing assets that respond to the area’s needs. Through the foundation, residents can fund scholarships, programs, and projects to benefit education; the arts and culture; character education; historic preservation; parks, beautification and recreation as well as seniors, youth and those with disabilities in Fairfield and Fairfield Township.
Grants in various amounts are awarded three times a year. Any nonprofit
organization that serves Fairfield or Fairfield Township residents may apply for a grant.
Prior grant recipients have included the Fairfield Food Pantry, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County, Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Fairfield, Hannah’s Treasure Chest, Fairfield Family YMCA Branch, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ken Anderson Alliance and many more.

“The biggest thing that we really try and focus on is how many people from
Greater Fairfield will this impact? This was created to help the folks in Greater Fairfield, so that’s really the area we’re focusing on,” Yarger said.

A community foundation can really focus dollars in a particular area, she said,
and the other thing is we are here forever. Monies continue to grow, and the foundation can continue its work forever.
In addition to the grants, more than $100,000 in educational scholarships are
given out each year to area students. Scholarships typically range from $500 to $5,000 each.
Yarger said last year, for the first time, the foundation offered a sustainability
grant. It was a donor-sponsored, one-year grant. Area nonprofits had to meet various criteria and submitted applications to be considered for the grant. One sustainability grant was awarded to Fairfield Prevention Coalition and a second sustainability grant was awarded to The Center for Family Solutions.
“We found that many nonprofits began as a heartfelt project, and they do it
because they see a need, and they want to fill the need, so they lead with their heart, and sometimes it’s really a struggle for them to make it from year to year, because financially they may not be where they need to be, or maybe they just don’t have the skills to raise funds, or whatever it is that’s needed. So, this sustainability grant allowed them to be mentored, or to attend classes, in order to gain those skills, and help them become more sustainable,” Yarger said.

The Fairfield Community Foundation also hosts an annual event each year to
inform the public about the various initiatives and accomplishments. The 2020 event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Fairfield Community Arts Center from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening will include an awards presentation, including the “Wall of Fame,” and “Grant Challenge” awards, a reception, and a concert. “I’m really proud of the nonprofits that we’ve helped. They are the ones in the trenches doing the work. Obviously, we can’t be there to do that, so we award them money with the idea that they are going to use that money to do the work,” Yarger said,

“When I follow up, and I meet with them, it’s just thrilling to see what they can
accomplish with a small amount of money.”

Another thing she says is personally satisfying is when the foundation is able to
help connect the right people with the right projects. Often, organizations also have an opportunity to work together collectively to accomplish something, which is also exciting. Another thrilling aspect is to be able to bring a donor into the mix that is passionate about a particular project.

Honoring Jim Miller by inducting him to our Wall of Fame at our Annual Celebration 2019. Photo submitted

For more information about the Fairfield Community Foundation, to obtain a grant
application, or to make a donation, call (513) 829-6355 or email Linda Yarger at
linda@fairfieldcommunityfoundation.org. Visit the Fairfield Community Foundation
online at www.fairfieldcommunityfoundation.org.

Community foundations are independent, public charities created by and for the
people of a local area. Currently, there are nearly 800 individual community foundations in the U.S. and several hundred more, worldwide. The Fairfield Community Foundation works to strengthen the Greater Fairfield area by enabling people to create charitable funds that address a wide range of interests.