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Leading Locally: Table Rock Lake Community Foundation

Covering an area rich in scenic beauty and cultural history, the foundation supports needs in Stone and southeastern Barry counties

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Table Rock Lake-based foundation serves as catalyst for community good

The area around Table Rock Lake has drawn visitors for decades. From the publication of “The Shepherd of the Hills,” a famed novel that told of the lives of Ozarkers at the turn of the 20th century, to the marvel of caves and the famed Branson strip to the construction of the aforementioned lake in the late ’50s, the area’s rolling hills have offered many reasons to stop and stay a spell.

The Table Rock Lake Community Foundation takes that draw of place in another direction: By enhancing quality of life for people who choose to make the area their home. Since its inception in 2004, the TRLCF has distributed more than $10 million back to the community. It now holds assets totaling $2,871,866 as of June 2023.

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Kimberling City is one place supported by the Table Rock Lake Community Foundation.

Causes supported by the TRLCF, as well funds it holds for nonprofit partners, fall across a wide spectrum of both people and places.

Given the area it supports, the communities it covers range from Galena, the seat of Stone County, to Shell Knob, a small town in Barry County with views of the lake — and SKITS Community Theater, which is tied to Central Community United Methodist Church. The church is a landmark for the small town, which offers a number of community betterment programs — including a community garden, daycare and space for local quilters and activities — and is regularly supported by the TRLCF.

“I tend to avoid wanting to put a check into a church, but when you get a church that’s doing those kinds of community things, it makes sense to do it,” says Nita Jane Ayres, vice president of the TRLCF. “There are three places where TRLCF has provided funds to help.”

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The TRLCF helped support the creation of a sound garden at the Kimberling Area Library.

That is an example of the foundation’s approach: To prioritize projects that enhance the local sense of place and life for the wider community. Several years ago, on behalf of the Missouri Foundation for Health, the TRLCF also distributed funding to Galena High School, where a teacher developed a course integrating principles of public health into a biology class.

“The biology teacher got together with Stone County Health Department and they came up with curriculum for a high school class called Biology of Public Health,” Ayres says. “These kids have had the opportunity to really learn about public health matters, sexually transmitted diseases and that sort of thing.”

Ayres says the lessons didn’t stop there. She also references the people skills that students developed through the class such as introductions, eye contact and handshakes.

“I felt like that was so significant for them to be learning that because that helps them so much, such as with interviews,” she notes.

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In addition to the area around Table Rock Lake, the TRLCF supports communities like Galena — home to the iconic Y Bridge — and other communities throughout Stone and eastern Barry counties.

Another place where that is seen is at the volunteer-run Kimberling Area Library. The TRLCF has contributed to projects at the library including the purchase of Wonderbooks, which are printed with an audio file inside, allowing kids to listen while they read. The TRLCF also helped fund a sound garden outside the library along with other local donors.

“One of the important things too about the Kimberling Area Library is this is not a tax-supported library,” Ayres says. “It’s a volunteer- and donation-supported library.

“It’s a resource for the community; it’s a resource that they’re providing to the community as a group of volunteers. One of the reasons why that’s important to me as a realtor is because that’s quality of life.”

Looking to the future: Increased awareness — and even more grant applications

Even though the TRLCF has existed for nearly 20 years, an ongoing goal is increasing awareness that funds are available. That effort is still a priority — and could lead to future fundraising efforts if the demand for funds continues to increase.

“Our primary goal is doing as good a job as we can making these groups and organizations aware of our grant dollars, so it’s a competition for those grant dollars,” Ayres says. “That may push us as a group to think, ‘OK, how can we raise more dollars?’ From my standpoint, that’s a goal — getting awareness out there for more people.”

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