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Leading Locally: Ozark County Community Foundation

Legacy abounds in Ozark County, where historical mills still dot hillsides with new purpose as sights of beauty. They’re just one example of how the area is evolving to keep history part of the present.

Affiliate Foundations

Ozark County affiliate serves through community development and revitalization efforts

Two decades of history have been made — and changed — through the work of the Ozark County Community Foundation, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023.

Since its inception in 2003, the OCCF has distributed more than $931,427 to the local community through grants and scholarships. The causes it supports are varied, but connect to celebrating and recognizing one word — local — in and around the county seat of Gainesville, a town of about 600 people near Missouri’s southern state line.

“The concept of just helping in your community is so rewarding,” says Board President Kerrie Zubrod.

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Ozark County is largely rural, and located along the Missouri-Arkansas border.

It’s a place where generational ties are still revered and recognized. An example is Hootin an Hollarin, one of the region’s first fall festivals that dates to 1961 and features fun through music, outhouse and bed races, food, and old-fashioned square dancing on wooden platforms.

Those efforts and many more collectively speak to the sense of community that still lives in town.

“I can remember when the square was so busy and just buzzing,” says Board Member Don Reynolds, who grew up locally and recently moved home. His own experience is a reason he wants to serve the community today.

“I have so many good memories of growing up here.”

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Gainesville is home to Hootin an Hollarin, an annual fall festival that dates to the early 1960s.

Yet as times change, there are needs that arrive, too. That’s where the OCCF has worked to serve. Over its two decades of existence, the foundation has grown to hold more than 40 funds for a variety of community causes.

The spectrum of the latter is wide, ranging from a fund for Hootin an Hollarin to a volunteer fire department, and cultural preservation at the Ozark County Historium. A new fund in 2022 was the Gainesville Hometown Makeover Fund, which exists to help exterior home restoration and renovation work in town.

The OCFF also distributes grants annually, an effort which, in 2020, supported initial construction of a multipurpose trail at Gainesville’s Hoerman Memorial Park.

“They had the idea of creating a walking path in and around the high school and the park,” Zubrod says. “A lot of the reason it came to fruition is because of the grant that we gave them.”

Looking forward: Increasing visibility

As the OCCF continues to evolve, a goal remains at the forefront: Increasing visibility, which allows more people to know of the foundation for both giving — to its unrestricted endowment as well as individual funds — and receiving when a need arises.

“I would say visibility is always first and foremost on our mind,” Zubrod says.

Historically, the OCCF’s grants were primarily distributed through one-off asks when worthwhile projects came along. In 2022, however, the group began an annual grant round and advertised it so that all groups knew to apply.

“Last year, there were three different entities that we granted,” Zubrod says. The grants ultimately went to the Ozark County Volunteer Library for operating expenses; the Senior Citizens of Ozark County for outdoor seating area at the senior center; and the Ozark County Sheriff’s office for training of K9 Unit Rye and his handler.

“There was a purposeful ‘This is the money we have to grant out, and this is what we’re going to do,’” Zubrod says. “Our plan is to do that again this coming fall.”

In their own words

Why do you serve?

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"As a banker, the best way to help my community is to get involved and participate. I am fortunate to have a career that prioritizes service to others.”

—Kerrie Zubrod, OCCF president

Ozark county cf 4x5 sue ann jones

“All of us who grew up here had a connection here. I cherish our community because now we know how rare it is.

—Sue Ann Jones, OCCF secretary

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My career has been in education, and it’s always wonderful to see people succeed, learn and grow.

—Don Reynolds, OCCF board member

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