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Leading Locally: El Dorado Springs Community Foundation

A marker near a unique stone-pieced bandstand tells of El Dorado Springs’ start, which dates to 1881 and came to be because of (supposedly) medicinal spring water. Today, the community is home to one of the last municipal-tax-funded community bands in the state and an annual picnic dating to 1882.

Affiliate Foundations

Cedar County affiliate foundation serves to connect donors with possibilities

A meeting Kay Forest attended around 2000 ended up being worth more than a million dollars to her hometown of El Dorado Springs. On that day, she was at a session — led by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks — about potential impacts and opportunities for philanthropy in rural areas. Seeing the benefits a local affiliate foundation could bring, she took the idea back to town.

“It just sounded really interesting,” says Forest.

At the time, Forest was an administrator for a clinic in El Dorado Springs and shared the information with Jack Reynolds, a physician at the health care center who also led a nonprofit for local scholarships. That and future conversations led to the creation of the El Dorado Springs Community Foundation in 2001.

“We folded my fund into the foundation and it has been a blessing to El Dorado Springs, the school district and the surrounding area,” Reynolds says. “Our grants often go to the local public and Christian school, requested by particular teachers to further their programs. I think this is so important. It is a way to encourage teachers to be creative and rewards their efforts. Schools often do not have the disposable funds for the ‘frills’ and we have been able to fulfill some of those needs.”

El dorado springs hero

A landmark in El Dorado Springs is its bandstand. Located in its city park, the rock structure marks where water, once thought to be medicinal, came forth from the earth. In summer months, it's also where a longtime community band gives concerts.

Since that time, more than $672,026 has been disbursed through the area for local needs and scholarships and the affiliate holds more than $1,091,866 in assets.

The EDSCF administers an annual grant round which has supported organizations including Special Olympics, food pantries and the local diaper bank. It also oversees funds which benefit the community in other ways. An example: The Cedar County Library District has a fund with EDSCF for the purposes of building a new facility in El Dorado Springs. It opened to the public in February 2023.

Additionally, the EDSCF has about 10 funds for education or scholarships under its umbrella. Particularly when it comes to scholarships, some individuals and families who establish funds to serve others, but also to keep the memories of their loved ones alive.

“I think for the families, those scholarship funds are very special to them,” Forest says. “They comfort them, and help them remember their loved ones. It’s really important to them to keep that name going.”

It’s also a decision that helps continue a life of support on a new level, says Forest, sharing the late Henry Bender as an example.

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El Dorado Springs is located in Cedar County.

“When he and his wife both passed, their children wanted to provide support to the community in memory of their mom and dad,” says Forest. “They set up a scholarship fund, and they, too, have donated so much to the community through the years, helping many organizations.”

There is such dedication to the organization that there are board members — including Reynolds and Dennis Daugherty — who stay active in the foundation despite no longer living near El Dorado Springs.

“I grew up in small communities and was involved in banking for 50 years. You become involved in the success of people, businesses and the community,” says Daugherty. “When times get tough and help is needed, you step up. If a community stands still, it’s going backwards. You always have to improve.”

Looking to the future: Continuing to be a resource

As the El Dorado Springs Community Foundation looks to the future, one of its primary goals is to continue educating the community on what resources it can provide. In some cases, that’s funding — but in others, it’s opportunity.

“I think our goal primarily is to be a resource for those who want to establish funds,” Forest says. “I think that’s really where our vision has been; to be a resource. You let us know what you want to do, and we’ll see if we can help you. Our role as a community foundation is more of support for those who want to give.

“We’re here to help. We’re here to support. We’re here to guide you.”

In their own words

Why do you serve?

El dorado springs cf portrait kay forest

“I just know the pleasure it brings to families and how much it touches their hearts when they can honor a loved one with a scholarship fund. I think that’s what really drives us to keep doing this. It’s that heartfelt gift that makes a lasting difference. I think that’s truly what drives our foundation.”

—Kay Forest, EDSCF president

El dorado springs cf portraits dennis daughtery

I’m involved in numerous nonprofit organizations because the mission is similar: Improve the quality of life for area residents and the community.”

—Dennis Daugherty, EDSCF board member

One of my motivations was to try to keep some of the generational wealth in our community as I saw the older community leaders aging and dying. New businesses came in but often not with any ties to the community and no real corporate interest or involvement. We have been imperfect at capturing those funds for the community but we have managed to accrue more funding than any other community group.”

—Jack Reynolds, EDSCF board member

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