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A Foundation for Phelps County Based in Rolla, the Phelps County Community Foundation is the CFO’s 55th regional affiliate. Learn More
CFO Stories

Leading Locally: Community Foundation of the Lake

Based along Lake of the Ozarks, Community Foundation of the Lake serves a three-county area and is currently working on building trails to attract visitors year-round.

Affiliate Foundations

Affiliate has distributed $2.7 million back into the community

Since the Community Foundation of the Lake’s founding in 2009, its leaders have taken reality in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties, and used it as inspiration for what could be. Just one example of these efforts shows through the Magic Dragon Trail System, an effort to construct 70 miles of multi-use trails around Lake of the Ozarks.

The project — which would create trails designed for walking, biking, hiking, jogging, running, as well as wheelchair accessibility — ties to the CFL’s mission in a number of ways.

It contributes to community members’ health, fosters a sense of place and has potential to improve the local economy. For example, a 2018 study by the Walton Family Foundation found that bicycling provided $137 million in economic impact to northwest Arkansas, which has become a hub for trails.

“One of the things that we heard from a lot of business owners was that it was really hard to make it between Labor Day and Memorial Day,” says Board Vice President Stacy Pyrtle of the community largely funded by tourism. “We decided that this is really kind of the perfect area for a trail system given our rocky soil, terrain, and the hills and temperate climate that people really like.

“That way, we could be bringing tourism in during the offseason, helping keep people employed, expanding businesses, potentially adding to businesses and potentially increasing property values.”

Even its name was inspired by what was.

“The shape of the lake is in a dragon and it’s been called the ‘magic dragon’ lake at times,” Pyrtle says.

Cf lake magic dragon trails skills park 16x9 2

A section of trail has been built next to the Tri-County YMCA of the Ozarks.

As of early 2023, the first phase in the project is complete: A skills park, on property donated by the Tri-County YMCA of the Ozarks, features around a half-mile of singletrack natural surface trail. It was constructed with about 70 volunteers who did manual labor or donated resources for the project.

“We’re focusing on this Matt Duenke recreational area, which is about 20 miles of multiuse trails,” says Pyrtle. “Some of its going to be hard surface, some of it singletrack, some of it hiking. We’re also looking at putting a dog park in there.”

While perhaps its most prominent project to date, the CFL has also invested time, energy and resources into a number of other endeavors, resulting in more than $2.7 million back into the community.

“Our mission is to assist in the health, education, cultural and economic development of the lake region,” says Board President Jane Wright. “We help individuals and businesses focus on their philanthropic goals, help them determine their charitable giving and offer the variety of funds available through the CFO.”

Cflake 2023 grants 14

The Community Foundation of the Lake has invested more than $2.7 million back into the community.

The foundation has biannual grant rounds. One specifically focuses on needs related to local horse and dog shelters, sanctuaries and rescue facilities. It is available thanks to a field-of-interest fund created by the Karen Jean Rudek Trust, and to date has distributed nearly $128,000 over its four years of existence.

The second grant round is open to all local nonprofits that serve within the CFL’s guiding values. Champagne Campaign, CFL’s annual signature fundraiser, serves as the primary catalyst for those distributions.

“This year, we will grant out $56,000 from that fundraiser, making that a total of $90,000 that we will be granting out in this six-month period,” Wright says, sharing that another benefit of the fundraiser is building relationships. “It’s another way that we really do connect to our community and let them know what we have going on.”

“I have never ever experienced a community so philanthropic, so giving.”

Looking to the future: Continued growth

While the Magic Dragon trail project is a primary focus of the CFL in the coming years, other efforts are also underway to keep the affiliate’s grantmaking growing.

“We also are working to increase our endowments to be able to fund some of those other organizations on an ongoing basis,” Wright says. “That’s kind of a message that we really want to get out is how people can be philanthropic. Whether it’s setting up a fund with us from a variety of fund options or donating to the Magic Dragon trails directly, we want to help share how people can really give back to the community.”

In their own words

Why do you serve?

Cf lake Jane Wright 4x5

“I’m a transplant from St. Louis, recently retired, moved here and thought, ‘Well, I need to meet some folks and get involved.’ I just so happened to be at the right spot at the right time — at one of the CFL’s great smoke detector giveaways — and met everybody and said, ‘This is my home. This is it.’”

—Jane Wright, CFL president

Cf lake Stacy Pyrtle 4x5

“We’ve been here about five years. The CFL has been a great way for me to connect with people in the community and meet new people. I’ve always been involved in civic organizations. It was a fantastic way to get involved in the community, give back and meet new people.”

—Stacy Pyrtle, CFL vice president

Cf lake Christy Wagner 4x5

“As treasurer of Community Foundation of the Lake, I have been given the opportunity to work directly alongside the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. I look forward to 2023 becoming yet another record-breaking year for funds raised and distributed to Camden, Miller and Morgan counties.”

—Christy Wagner, CFL treasurer

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