The inaugural class of Leadership Columbia County wanted to make a lasting impression with its class project.
And it will. Members created the Columbia County Forward Foundation, designed to help charities and those organizing fundraisers and provide grants to organizations for projects benefiting the community.
"We looked at several different options," said county Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson, class member and chairman of the foundation. "Out of all the options we looked at, this seemed to be the one that had the most sustainability.
"I think that was something that we were definitely interested in. Being the first class of Leadership Columbia County, we wanted to maybe provide a platform that future classes could use."
Many members of the class, sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, are involved in charitable organizations, and the foundation would be able to assist many of them.
"They saw a need," said Tammy Shepherd, Columbia County Chamber president and CEO and program director of the Leadership class. "With the foundation, it will help service the needs of other organizations as a fundraiser tool."
The foundation was inspired by several class members' involvement in a recent fundraising gala for Columbia County Arts Inc. Proceeds also benefited the Columbia County Cares food pantry.
The event was complicated, with more than one beneficiary, and the foundation could have streamlined the process for its organizers, said event organizer Bobby Christine, who also is a member of the inaugural leadership class.
"There was really no mechanism for them to channel their funding through," Johnson said.
The foundation board will review requests for grant funding for special events for organizations that rely on voluntary contributions and those supported by taxes. Preference will be given to the nonprofits, and funds cannot be used for daily operating costs.
"Those are things brought in front of the board on an individual basis," Johnson said. "Basically, the idea behind the foundation was we wanted a nonprofit foundation in Columbia County that could provide potential funding for several different charities. We were hoping that the Columbia County Forward Foundation (will) fill that gap."
The class also designed the foundation to act as an umbrella for charitable fundraising. Board members are in the process of obtaining nonprofit status for the foundation so other organizations can benefit from their fundraising efforts.
The foundation also can handle all the often complicated paperwork required when raising and distributing charitable funds.
The class presented the project to the chamber Board of directors on May 10.
Shepherd said she's proud of the class and its project. Members considered many different ideas to benefit the community, but they all embraced the idea of the foundation.
"They wanted something that would last from this point on and not be a one-time event or one-time shot," Shepherd said. "They all came together to support this one idea."
Johnson said a Web site is being developed.
In the meantime, anyone interested in making a donation to the foundation, receiving a grant or seeking fundraising assistance should contact Johnson at (706) 868-3423.
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