A legacy of heritage in Bartholomew County

In 1976, the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, Inc. was created as the final act of the Columbus/ Bartholomew Centennial Corporation. Bicentennial commissions across the nation were charged by President Ford to establish projects which would have lasting impact. The Columbus/Bartholomew Bicentennial Corporation’s board of directors agreed with this objective and established the Heritage Fund as a community foundation to encourage “continued community giving, support and leadership as a memorial to those of the past and the present who have done so much.”

The real work began in 1977 with nine board members and a generous $25,000 donation from Lowell Engelking. Over the next few years, with no track record and no list of accomplishments, this board had to convince the Bartholomew community their goal was attainable and had merit. Often community foundations are started because someone provides a lot of money, usually by a bequest. But Heritage Fund went directly to the community – hoping to get average citizens to see the benefits of helping their community for generations to come. Three years later, Heritage Fund had $3,100,000 in pledges from 86 donors. (This equals approximately $6,700,000 in 2008 dollars). Given a chance to participate, citizens were willing to share in a future for their community.

The legacy of those citizens lives on and continues to grow over 30 years later. What began as a simple desire to give to future generations some of the same advantages and opportunities they enjoyed, has become a mission to develop leadership, promote positive change and encourage giving throughout the community. Currently Heritage Fund has over $46 million in assets, manages 386 endowed and scholarship funds and has awarded over $10 million in grants and scholarships. The community foundation continues to grow, both in number of donors, funds and in addressing the ever-changing needs of the community. The results of those initial efforts, over 30 years ago, are more far-reaching than those founding citizens could imagine; they have built a memorial that honors the past and looks to the future of Bartholomew County and its citizens.

Below is a timeline of important events in the development of Heritage Fund:

1968-1974: Discussion among local civic leaders about the possibility of establishing a community foundation; “talking paper” developed to explore the idea.

1976: Official resolution to change the name of Columbus/Bartholomew County Bicentennial Corp. to Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, Inc. Resolution also shifted focus from the bicentennial to projects benefiting the community.

Feb. 1977: Lowell Engelking made $25,000 start-up gift for new community foundation.

April, 1977: First permanent Heritage Fund Board of Directors elected (9 members).

Dec. 1977: Orphie Bridges – first Executive Director of Heritage Fund (volunteer, part-time).

July, 1978: IRS notification of 501(c)(3) status – can now operate as a community foundation.

Nov. 1979: Edward F. Sullivan hired – first full-time Executive Director.

July, 1981: Endowment Development Campaign launched – goal of $2.5 million by Dec. 1982.

May, 1982: Expanded number of Heritage Fund board members from nine to 13.

April, 1983: $3.1 million pledged for the Endowment Development Campaign.

Sept. 1983: Heritage Fund moved from 425 Ninth Street to 646 Franklin Street (current Armory Apartments).

1984: Heritage Fund began formal grant-making process.

1986: Barbara W. Stewart first woman to serve as Heritage Fund Board Chair.

1990: Heritage Fund office moved to 430 Second Street (Lincoln Square).

1992: Heritage Fund received $1 million anonymous gift in support of hospice services.

1997: Chuck Watson hired as Executive Director.

1998: First Lilly Scholarship Recipient – Melissa Becker, CEHS.

1998: Heritage Fund received largest bequest in its history; over $5 million from estate of Millie Reeves.

1999: Sharon Risk Stark hired as President/CEO.

2000: Heritage Fund received $5 million CAPE grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. for Community Education Coalition programs.

2000: Heritage Fund’s Planned Giving Society was created with 35 founding members (later renamed The Bartholomew Society).

2001: Heritage Fund received $1 million bequest from Delora L. Lauther for scholarship fund.

2002: Heritage Fund moved to its current home – 538 Franklin Street. Gift of three properties at Franklin Square from Xenia Miller and Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation.

2007: Heritage Fund and Community Education Coalition received $38 million in grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., to fund educational programs associated with advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and tourism/hospitality in ten counties in Southeast Indiana (Economic Opportunities Through Education by 2015 or EcO15).

2011: Tracy Hamilton Souza hired as President/CEO.