Piqua Foundation works to improve community

For the Daily Call



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of three parts about The Piqua Foundation, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Today’s installment focuses primarily on The Foundation’s history — when, why and by whom it was founded. On Friday, part two will look at the organization’s grant-making process and organizations it has benefited.

PIQUA — Local residents may have heard of some of the beneficial things The Piqua Foundation has done in the community, but they may not understand how it was started and how they can become part of this organization.

“Generally, there are two ways people learn about the foundation,” Executive Director Karen Wendeln said. “One way is through our Cakes for a Cause fundraiser; more people get involved in that probably more than anything we do. It’s been going for the last 13 years.

“The other way people tend to hear about us is through the projects we fund and the grants. That can be either from the perspective of the person benefiting from the grant or the organization that is looking for funding.”

Reflecting on her long career with The Foundation, Wendeln noted that there was a time when her position didn’t exist. “This is my 18th year. During the first seven years, there was no staff. The board of directors basically was the volunteer staff,” she said. “They kept it going until they were at a size where they could afford to hire somebody. That somebody was me.”

In honor of its 25th anniversary, The Foundation provided some history and other information for this three-part series.

What is a community foundation?

A community foundation is an organization which develops, receives and administers endowment funds from private sources and manages them under community control for charitable purposes, primarily focusing on local needs. In other words, The Foundation encourages and accepts gifts made by individuals and groups and, through various means of investment, grows and distributes funds that will benefit the people of the Piqua community. Funds are directed to organizations whose missions are religious, scientific, literary, educational or charitable, which provide direct programming to Piqua residents.

Foundations in any community provide a wide variety of ways to respond to the needs of donors. They can include unrestricted funds (donated with no specifications), designated funds (donated to go specifically to a certain organization or group of organizations), donor advised funds (which rely on recommendations from a committee which may or may not include the donor) and field of interest funds (donated to fall into a broad identified field of charitable concern.) They may also hold organizational endowment funds, for which the foundation manages and reports on funds for a not-for-profit organization.

In addition to improving the community, a foundation provides tax benefits to donors who are in a position to give a charitable gift. Contributions made to the unrestricted funds go to community grants that are selected by a grant distribution committee. Gifts made with specifications are recommended by donor advisory committees and approved by the Foundation’s board of directors.

The rationale for a foundation

A letter sent to community members back in 1993 stated:

“For many years, there has been an unfulfilled need in the community of Piqua. That need is a means of supporting and funding the philosophy of moving Piqua forward to a higher level of community spirit and self-image. It is with that goal in mind and with a higher calling that the Piqua Community Foundation was formed.“

Michael Yannucci, one of the original founders of The Foundation, remembers, “It was felt that a Community Foundation would be a long-term approach to favorably affect the citizens of Piqua into the next centuries.”

The Foundation was designed to allow philanthropic donors to pool their gifts – both large and small – to the benefit of the city and those who live here.

The founders

With help from nearby foundations in Troy and Dayton, The Piqua Community Foundation began with brainstorming by a focus group, culminating in legal documents which established The Foundation’s birthdate as Nov. 12, 1993. The original focus groups included Clifford Alexander, John Arnold, Robert Fite, Edward Fry, Lloyd Fry, Richard Grimes, R. Charles Hemm, Samuel Jackson, Ray Loffer, Jack Neuenschwander, Benjamin Scott Sr., Tony Wendeln, Michael Yannucci and Thomas DeRoss.

Chosen to serve on the original board of directors, taking office in November 1993, were John Alexander, Leesa Baker, Jerry Clark, Mimi Crawford, Ed Fry, Elmer Harris, Louis Havenar, Samuel Heitzman, R. Charles Hemm, Ray Loffer, Colombe Nicholas, Frank Patrizio, Karen Staley, Tony Wendeln and Michael Yannucci. While directors serve three-year terms, there are no term limits; Alexander, Crawford, Wendeln and Yannucci have served for The Foundation’s entire lifetime, and each has served a term as board president.

The biggest obstacle for the founders to overcome was lack of funds. Unlike a private foundation that may have started with a large sum of money from a family or individual, The Piqua Community Foundation started with a zero balance.

Community members were asked by board members for donations to help start the process, and those who donated at least $1,000 were named “charter life trustees.” These trustees were the grassroots support of The Foundation, having faith in The Foundation and its mission even before The Foundation existed. Their gifts, and those of all donors to the unrestricted funds of the Foundation through the years, have allowed the distribution of over $1 million in community grants over the years – all from the fund that started 25 years ago at zero.

FRIDAY: Part two — Foundation grant-making


For the Daily Call

Belinda M. Paschal contributed to this report. She can be reached at (937) 451-3341

Belinda M. Paschal contributed to this report. She can be reached at (937) 451-3341