Our Community’s Foundation celebrates 51 years

VIENNA – Our Community’s Foundation celebrated the launch of its 51st year of community service with the annual luncheon on Friday.

“We just finished our 50th year and by the time anything reaches 50, it has changed in many ways,” said Judy Sjostedt, executive director of the foundation. “A foundation is not a rock; it is a living entity and change is a good thing as the entity adapts and shows life.”

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 51st 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.

In the past year, 1,695 individuals supported the foundation by donating $2 million to build the permanent resources in the region. In the past 50 years, the foundation has given more than $33 million to help the community.

“In 1963 we gave $2,000 in grants,” said foundation chair Ann Beck. “Last year we gave $1.7 million.”

Sjostedt spoke about the foundation’s Civic Leaders Fellowship Program, which had its second year last summer and gave more than 20 area students meaningful paid summer employment and a program of civic education.

“For our third year we hope to employ up to 50 young people locally,” Sjostedt 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.

“I have participated in two years of the program,” said Morgan Kirl, a student at Ohio Valley University studying library sciences. In her past two years of participation, Kirl has worked at the Vienna and Parkersburg public libraries.

“This past year, while working at the Parkersburg branch, I found a passion for genealogy and have received a grant from the PACF to continue my work,” Kirl said. “The PACF has given young professionals a great way to learn and build careers.”

The foundation is committed to one more year of this program and is now taking applications from student participants for the 2014 program.

“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 said.