Our Community Foundation marks 50th anniversary

VIENNA – Our Community’s Foundation celebrated the launch of its 50th year of community service with the annual luncheon on Friday.

“Our Community’s Foundation has a deep appreciation for our donors,” said Marian Clowes, program and development officer for the foundation. “All we have ever done and will ever do is because of you.”

Our Community’s Foundation is the collective name for the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and its Regional Affiliate organizations in Doddridge, Jackson, Little Kanawha Area, Mason and Ritchie counties.

This calendar year marks the 50th anniversary of the PACF as a tax-exempt, nonprofit public charity foundation, which was created in 1963 by local citizens to make grants to nonprofits, schools, churches and municipalities in 11 counties and scholarships to students. While the foundation offers many different types of charitable funds, the focus is to build permanent endowments to annually distribute some earnings forever.

“Fifty years ago, 1963, was a very turbulent year nationally, but there was a group of people who saw a way to do good locally,” said Judy Sjostedt, executive director of the foundation. “Because of their foresight, we are able to do so much good in the community and be a light for future generations.”

In the past year, 1,677 individuals supported the foundation by donating $3.5 million to build the permanent resources in the region. In the past 50 years, the foundation has given more than $32 million to help the community.

“In 1963 we gave $2,000 in grants,” said incoming chairman Ann Beck. “We have come a long way.”

During the luncheon meeting, Beck was introduced as the new chair of the foundation while Fred Rader was honored for his three years in the position.

Sjostedt spoke about the foundation’s Civic Leaders Fellowship Program, which had its first year last summer and gave 14 area students meaningful paid summer employment and a program of civic education.

“This is our new major initiative,” she said. “The area is experiencing a migration of our educated young people leaving the area because they feel what they are looking for career-wise is not here and we want to show them that it is.”

The program matches students with businesses and organizations to enhance the students’ personal skills and ability to find meaningful employment in the region following graduation.

“The goal is to provide a collaborative way for employers, nonprofit organizations and foundations in our area to work together to build our region’s potential workforce for the future,” Sjostedt said.

The foundation is committed to two more years of this program and is currently taking applications from student participants for the 2013 program.

While the foundation celebrates its first half century of service to the community, it will not be holding a large party, Sjostedt said.

“Many organizations celebrate 50 years with a gala, but that is just not us,” she said. “We would rather take the funds and put it back into the local communities.

“Our role is to be here for the people of our area today and tomorrow, to work for the broad public benefit of our region for the causes that matter locally,” Sjostedt added.

The PACF plans to use the milestone anniversary as the occasion to celebrate its partnerships throughout the year by making a difference in the community.