Our First Decade 1998-2008.
The History of the Crawford Heritage Community Foundation

The Crawford Heritage Community Foundation, has its roots in a committee formed under the auspices of the United Way of Western Crawford County in 1997. Their charge was to determine the feasibility of a community foundation serving all of Crawford County. The committee was made up of Mary Jane Barretta, Dwight Haas, Edana Hough, Paul L. Huber, Christine B. (Kit) Lang, Melissa Mencotti, Hon. Gordon Miller, Dr. John B. Nesbitt, Rev. Dr. William A. Smith, Mark Strausbaugh and Lisa Pepicelli Youngs.

The committee met throughout 1997 to educate themselves further about building a community foundation and to consider whether or not Crawford County should have its own foundation. It was determined that a community foundation was feasible and necessary to maintaining local control of charitable funds. Further, it would help to promote philanthropy county-wide.

In 1998, I wouldn’t have guessed we would achieve so much, so quickly. Obviously, our instinct was right and there was a need for a community foundation. People wanted a way to make a permanent charitable impact. Instead of just giving money to be spent in a short amount of time, the Foundation would invest what was given to give back every year.

~ Lisa Pepicelli Youngs, Founding Director

The committee filed articles of incorporation on December 15, 1997. We were formally organized as the Crawford Heritage Foundation on June 23, 1998, with the election of a Board of Directors and adoption of bylaws. The founding directors included Mary Jane Barretta, Dwight Haas, John K. Hodges, Paul L. Huber, Christine B. (Kit) Lang, Milosh Mamula, Melissa Mencotti, Hon. Gordon Miller, Dr. John B. Nesbitt, Thomas Parks, Sr., Robert L. Smith, Rev. Stanley Smith, Rev. Dr. William A. Smith, Mark Strausbaugh and Lisa Pepicelli Youngs.

The real work—bringing money into the Foundation—was just beginning. Two funds were established the first year. The Crawford Heritage Foundation Unrestricted Fund was created with gifts from several directors and the United Way of Western Crawford County. Through it we would make discretionary grants to support worthwhile local programs. Dwight and Janet Haas stepped forward next to establish the first donor designated fund. It would benefit the Crawford Heritage Foundation Unrestricted Fund, Stone United Methodist Church, United Way of Western Crawford County and Wesbury United Methodist Community. Our assets totaled more than $14,000 by the end of that first year.

Three types of funds were created in 1999. We applied for and received money originally invested by Benjamin Franklin in 1791 and used it to start the Ben Franklin Trust, an area of interest fund. The YWCA of Meadville established an organizational endowment for their benefit and a scholarship fund was established as a memorial for the late Dr. Thomas M. Watson, a Meadville physician.

We worked closely with area banks and nonprofit organizations and petitioned the Court of Common Pleas to transfer existing charitable trusts to our management. In return we were able to lower the fees charged against the trusts and return more to their charitable beneficiaries. The first of these was transferred in 1999.

If we didn’t have a community foundation, I worried that existing endowments would someday be administered in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. I think when you live and work here you understand the area better than people in other states and big cities. With the Foundation, money is raised here, invested here and local people decide how it will be spent. That’s a big reason why I’ve given as much as I have.

Paul Huber, Founding Director

Initial distributions were made from funds created the previous year. The grants to five organizations totaled $474. Assets under management grew to more than $280,000 by the end of 1999.

More than $28,000 in grants were awarded in 2000, including the first discretionary grants from the Unrestricted Fund. That same year our total assets surpassed the million dollar mark ($1.1 million) due to the addition of new funds and establishment of a charitable remainder annuity trust.

The Foundation grew modestly over the next two years, yet we were able to increase our grant distributions to an average of $60,000 per year. At the end of 2002 assets totaled $1.2 million.

More significant growth took place throughout 2003. We added more than $2.7 million to our total endowment, finishing the year with $3.9 million in assets. The amount of grant distributions also increased to more than $110,000.

Christian M. Maher was selected as the organization’s first executive director in 2004. Mr. Maher had worked with the Foundation as a consultant for the previous two years.

The Foundation’s first donor advised fund, the Linda Nicholls Huber Fund, was created by the Huber family of Meadville in 2006. Through donor advised funds, donors may recommend grants for distribution to the charitable organizations and purposes they wish to support.

I came here from Dayton, Ohio where they’ve had a successful community foundation since 1921. I thought we needed one here. A foundation is an essential tool. It strengthens agencies and helps people achieve their philanthropic interests.

Dwight Haas, Founding Director

From 2004 to 2007 the Foundation grew by more than $1 million dollars each year. Annual distributions to charitable beneficiaries increased correspondingly from $281,000 to $360,000.

We administered 81 funds benefitting 87 different organizations, scholarships and charitable purposes by the end of 2008. More than $1.7 million in grants were made from these funds in our first ten years.

We became the Crawford Heritage Community Foundation in March 2010 when the word ‘community’ was added to our name. The purpose of the change was to clarify our role as a community foundation. (Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities that work to improve the region they serve through the power of philanthropy. They differ from family and private foundations which are typically created by a small number of people and address a narrow set of issues.)

As of December 2010, we administered more than 100 funds benefitting more than 100 different organizations, scholarships and charitable purposes.