Featured Affiliate: Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc.

The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. achieved an important milestone this summer as their total assets grew well beyond the $5 million mark ($5.6 million as of July 31, 2007). The largest of Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ 41 regional affiliate foundations, the foundation has been a leader in regional philanthropic efforts since being established in 1999.

Established as the Carthage Community Foundation in 1999, the foundation awarded their first round of community grants and grew to almost one million dollars in total assets by 2002. The organization’s growth picked up steam over the following years and they reached the $4 million mark in total assets by 2006. That year also brought a significant expansion in the foundation’s service area as they expanded services to include Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties in their mission to enhance the quality of life in communities throughout the southwestern portion of Missouri. To reflect this regional commitment, the Carthage Community Foundation officially changed their name to the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc.

As charitable funds have grown, so has the foundation’s grantmaking program. To date, the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. has made almost $2 million in charitable grants and distributions. This includes moneys distributed from scholarship funds, donor advised funds, family and community funds, and others.

The Curtis Rex Carter Science Scholarship Fund, established with the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. in November of 2006, awards a four-year, $5,000 scholarship to a graduate of a Jasper County high school pursuing a degree in an applied science field, such as engineering or chemistry. Curt Carter, a Carthage native, established the scholarship with an IRA transfer, using the IRA Charitable Rollover provision of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. (Read more about Mr. Carter’s scholarship fund here.)

Carter’s fund is one of 45 individual funds held by the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. and one of nine new funds established with the foundation during the 2007 fiscal year.

Like other community foundations, through their commitment to the towns and counties they serve, the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. has endeavored to preserve local history. These efforts preserve an authentic sense of place and regional identity as well as revitalizing residential and business districts.

The Endowment Partner program assists area nonprofits with endowment building and improving their capacity to improve service. (Learn more about CFO’s Endowment Partner program here.) The Powers Museum in Carthage is an important resource for the preservation and study of the city’s rich history through their archives, reference library, community events and education programs. The museum became a Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. Endowment Partner in May 2007 when they established and organizational capacity building fund to assist them in managing their operational and program assets.

Two of the foundation’s donors and the Eastern Jasper County Historical Sites Association are working to renovate the historic one room Cave Spring School northeast of Sarcoxie. More than 160 years old, the one room school building has been a female academy, church, funeral parlor, a garrison for Union troops in the Civil War, and served briefly as the Jasper County Courthouse in the year following the Civil War. In 2005, the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation placed the school on its list of the ten most endangered state historic sites. Through their donor advised fund with the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. John and Carolyn Phelps are funding the improvements needed to preserve the historic building, such as replacing the roof and updating the exterior brick work, through a donor advised fund. Carolyn Phelps was one of the founding members of the Carthage Community Foundation, and has served on the board of directors since 1999.

“It’s a blessing. They’re going to make possible for future generations to see it,” Helen Hunter, Eastern Jasper County Historical Sites Association vice president, told the Carthage Press in July. “I think the Phelps are very foresighted people.”

Scholarships and historic preservation represent just a portion of the foundation’s efforts to enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve. Increasing levels of charitable assets will mean greater opportunities for the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, Inc. to positively impact the cities and towns they serve. And that is what ultimately makes the $5 million milestone such an important one.

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