While serving as a charitable resource for donors and agencies in the community, WSCF’s ownership and management of property sets it apart from other affiliate foundations of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which it joined in 2001.
Additionally, the WSCF owns several commercial buildings which it has restored — or is in the process of doing so — that have given back space, resources and support for a vibrant downtown. One example of the latter is the town’s historic Star Theater, which the WSCF owns, and is used by the community on a regular basis for bluegrass and country music shows.
“The Star Theater became a theater in 1920. It’s just down the street,” Aye says. “It’s next door to the annex which we use in tandem. The theater burned in ’72 the first time and in ’16 the second time. The Community Foundation stepped in and rebuilt it, so we have a history of stepping into these downtown properties.”
Efforts behind the WSCF’s work date back to the time when Wendell Bailey, a staunch local supporter and WSCF board member, was in office as Missouri’s state treasurer. Through another role he held with the Missouri Housing Development Corporation, he helped lead the creation of a government program that allowed communities to apply for grant funding to build low-income housing.
“He rolled out this program where you can apply for government grants to build low-income housing. It was not without some difficulty for communities to get involved because they had to have some infrastructure; somebody to manage these houses and properties,” Aye says. “They did it with sweat equity and volunteerism, and just an awful lot of vision, I think. Then it finally got to the point where it sort of funded itself after a dozen years or so.”
Individuals from many walks of life live in the homes owned by the WSCF.
“The community has to be behind them or we can’t do much of anything. The low-income — it’s not necessarily as what you think of as ‘low’ income,” says Jackie Williamson, a WSCF board member. “We have people that have been engineers at the highway department, we have teachers, we have nurses. Those are the people that are renting our houses.”
“We’ve got one house that that was built 20 years ago, and the same lady lives in it,” says Aye. “We get people who stay for a very long time. We also get people who move up and get on their feet and buy their own home.”