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Leading Locally: Owensville Area Community Foundation

Since its founding on March 27, 2015, the Owensville Area Community Foundation has distributed more than $224,622 back to the community. It now holds assets totaling $252,606 as of June 2023.

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Serving greater community good

Owensville, dating to the mid-1800s, is steeped in history and lore, beginning with how the town got its name.

Legend says that it was a long-ago game of horseshoes between Edward Luster and Francis Owen that ultimately decided what the small town would be called: When Luster won, he got the chance to name the community — but didn’t honor himself in the process.

“Declaring that 'Owensville sounds better than Lusterville,’ Luster elected to name the town after his defeated foe,” says Kyle Lairmore of Owensville.

That sense of charitability still exists today, and one way it’s seen is through the Owensville Area Community Foundation.

After nearly a decade of existence, the OACF has distributed nearly $225,000 to local causes that create a greater sense of place and quality of life for the community of about 2,800 people.

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Colorful "barn" quilts are found throughout downtown Owensville.

“Early on, we had a grant program which accepted applications, and the foundation board made the selections,” says Lairmore, who serves as vice president of the OACF, and says addressing food insecurity was a top concern. “Recipients included the food pantry and school backpack program.”

While OACF’s grant program is currently paused — it has yet to restart after the COVID-19 pandemic — its leaders also see other ways to invest in the community.

“Over the years, the community has had many philanthropic individuals looking at leaving funds with the community,” Lairmore says. “The CFO opens the door to many opportunities and assistance with setting up funds which support the community. The existence of a foundation also sparks conversation and interest in giving which may not have been a thought before.

“As a board member, you are responsible for ensuring the wishes of the donor are met and get to see the effects of the funds. When a fund is created, the community comes together to support the cause and raise dollars to go towards the funds, such as memorial scholarships.”

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History is visible throughout downtown Owensville, which is located in Gasconade County.

There are other opportunities ahead for the OACF too, such as the Rock Island Trail, which will connect about 200 miles of Missouri for primarily travel by bike.

“Owensville is part of the Rock Island Trail corridor and has almost three miles of trail through town that will soon be completed by the city,” Lairmore says. “This will have a huge impact on the community and opportunities for the foundation to be involved.”

That growth ties to the sense of place and opportunity that already exists in Owensville, a town that is largely economically propelled by manufacturers including Lakeside Book Company, a publication-printing business; Jahabow Industries, which creates custom displays and cabinets; and Rath, which offers high-temperature systems from a single source.

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Owensville's amenities include a park system with multiple destinations for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Those industries complement other amenities that tie to sense of place and quality of life.

“The highlight of Owensville is the park system which includes five parks, with Memorial Park being the largest,” Lairmore says. “The park includes a water park, golf course, multiple playgrounds, multi-use trail, baseball and softball fields, horseshoe pits and campground, and it hosts the Gasconade County Fair."

Those unique factors are why people like Lairmore are motivated to serve through the OACF.

“It is personally meaningful knowing individuals can leave a legacy in the community they grow up or live in, and work to support causes close to them,” Lairmore says.

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