$24,000 benefactor remains a mysterious connectionPublished 9:20am Friday, October 16, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
There are not one, not two, but three Rotary foundations, from the local Dowagiac club to the district and international levels.
Dowagiac Rotary Charitable Foundation is guided by President Don Woodhouse, whose father, Mayor Graham Woodhouse, was the club’s first of 99 Paul Harris Fellows in 1977.
Officers also include Vice President Larry Crandall, Secretary Barbara Groner, Treasurer Terry Harris and directors Marilu Franks, Bob Cochrane, Mark Herman and Herb Phillipson.
Dick Judd, the club’s international chair – he and his wife, Sandie, just returned from France, from Paris to the Riviera – said Thursday noon at Elks Lodge 889 that the Rotary Foundation was established in 1917 “for the purpose of doing good in the world.”
By 1928 it had grown to $5,000 and was a “distinct entity” from Rotary International.
After founder Paul Harris died in 1947, “It began to expand greatly,” Judd said.
Each Paul Harris Fellow for community service represents a $1,000 donation to the foundation.
“One of the first programs was ambassadorial scholarships, followed by Group-Study Exchange,” Judd said.
“The Health, Hunger and Humanities Grant program was launched in 1978. The highly successful Polio Plus program started in the mid-1980s.
“They’ve raised $1.9 billion over the course of the history of Rotary. Their net assets have dropped a little bit to just under $700 million.”
Annual receipts and awards vary, but run about $250 million a year.
“Dowagiac has played a significant role in the Rotary Foundation,” Judd said, “Total club contributions are now over $160,000.”
The District 6360 foundation is governed by nine officers and trustees.
Founded in 1992, it furnishes grants for constituent clubs’ service projects.
“The last report I saw, they had a net asset value of about $98,000,” Woodhouse said. “Their funding comes through donations and the raffle we just had.”
Attorney Mark Herman said Dowagiac, which emphasized international service and Polio Plus, added its local foundation in 1991.
Elizabeth Youngman of Indianapolis seeded the effort when her will provided for 5 percent of her estate.
Once it was probated, it came to more than $24,000.
Though she appears to have had relatives here, nobody knows her precise relationship to Rotary, Herman said.
Clothier Maurice Oppenheim bequeathed Rotary $20,000, giving the club foundation $44,000.
Terry Harris said that $44,000 is considered the “corpus. We have policies within the foundation that will not allow us to go below that balance. If we have a bad investment year, like we’ve had the last couple of years, it makes it very difficult for us to fund project requests. That being said, we currently have just over $46,000 divided among three funds and yesterday the market went over 10,000.”
Grant requests are submitted on a form available from foundation members.
“Basically, the form gives us some background on the request,” Harris said, “so the board can evaluate them and see if they fit into the principles of Rotary. Unless it’s an emergency, we ask that you give us 30 days to process that paperwork.” The board meets quarterly.
“We constructed an exercise track at Brookside Learning Center,” Harris recalled. “We assisted in construction of a new community exhibit hall at the Cass County Fairgrounds. We made a three-year commitment to the Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital emergency room which, as Joy Strand just mentioned, we’re going to have the dedication on Sunday. Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival storyteller, we’ve supported for a number of years; Domestic Assault Shelter; and the Cass County Council on Aging, those are some of the local projects the foundation has supported.
“On a national and international basis, we’ve supported clean well water projects in Nigeria, Hurricane Katrina relief, polio eradication and the Children of the Dump project. Contributions to the foundation are vital to the ability of the Dowagiac Rotary Foundation to continue to support these kinds of projects. We need to continue to bring up Rotary Villa, which was sponsored through Dowagiac Rotary Club. It will become an asset” in 17 years.
Dr. Fred L. Mathews, who chaired the senior housing project, said, “We’ll be one of the wealthier clubs in the country. When we met with HUD (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development), I asked what happened when (the 40-year mortgage) was paid off. I guess nobody ever asked that question before. We get money from HUD every year and we keep it up to snuff,” plus club volunteers landscape it.
Larry Crandall oversaw creation of a Dowagiac Rotary Club Charitable Foundation (P.O. Box 636, Dowagiac) brochure to create greater awareness.
“We’ll be distributing this to professional offices and McLauchlin-Clark Funeral Home. Keep this in mind if you’re doing estate planning. We have a process to try and spend money wisely,” Crandall said.