I write this on May 22, the 12th anniversary of the Joplin tornado. Over a decade later, I marvel at the resilience of that community and how it used tragedy as an impetus to become the smallest city in America to host both a medical school and soon to be open new dental school. There are many stories to be told about that fateful day, and so many tales of heroism. As several of you have heard before, my favorite story is of the sixth graders in Brooklyn who set up a lemonade stand and sent us the proceeds of their efforts — $42 in cash. What a selfless act of eleven-year-olds to do something so kind and generous to benefit people they will never know or meet. That one sticks with me.
We are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. From that humble start in 1973, when a group of folks with an idea convinced 15 banks to contribute $100 each, we now have a half-century of stories of kindness and generosity. In my nearly 15 years here, I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the good work that the CFO, our donors and our nonprofit partners have done to advance our mission of improving the quality of life for all people in our region.
I think of Henry Straus, the owner of a Venetian blind company in Springfield who lived to be 103, and who left a planned gift in the six-figure range for scholarships to provide young people with the gift of education. Since its inception, the fund has provided more than $2.2 million in scholarships. That is transformative.
I also watched through my own blurry eyes when a young lady told the story to our board of directors of how the Charles L. and Dorothy Weaver Memorial Orthodontic Fund allowed her to access much-needed and very expensive orthodontia work. “For the first time in over 10 years,” she told us, “I can smile, and keep a job and live life.”
A more recent story comes from new donors who opened a donor-advised fund who wrote me this note earlier in the year:
“[My wife] and I have been in your program for just over a year now and I must say, you have the slickest way I’ve ever seen to give away money. A guy with a gun at my back couldn’t do it with such grace and ease. You and your staff have done a wonderful job in all you do!”
Since our founding a half-century ago, we have now granted and distributed more than $560 million back out to our region. Sure, some of that may have happened anyway, but I’d like to think we have bolstered that generosity with some “grace and ease.” Behind each gift is a story about a donor, a cause and a receiving organization that addresses that cause.
You have heard some of my stories, now we would love to hear some of yours.
To join our celebration of our golden anniversary, please consider sharing your favorite memories about how the CFO has helped a cause you care deeply about. I’m sure there are some tales we’ve heard about, but my guess is there are so many that we have not. You can reach out to us at our social media (linked below) or make a post of your own with the hashtag #cfozarks50 and our handle @cfozarks.
Happy Anniversary! We couldn’t do this without you.
Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.