Unrestricted Giving Supports Emerging Needs In Region | News, Sports, Jobs

The Sally and Chuck Swanson Community Fund is the newest unrestricted fund established at the Community Foundation.

Since the formation of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, there have been countless individuals whose dedication and hard work have been recognized and celebrated. However, what is often left out of the story, is how the collective vision of raising unrestricted assets laid the groundwork for the foundation to address the region’s most pressing needs.

Not only did the fundraising efforts of Betty Lenna, Ken Strickler and John Sellstrom, to name a few, help the Foundation succeed, but their commitment to the vision of unrestricted giving has helped it thrive.

To date, more than $13 million of unrestricted funding has been awarded throughout the Chautauqua region.

“Our founding members may not have known exactly what our needs would be today,” said Tory Irgang, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director. “But they were deeply committed to what a community foundation could accomplish by utilizing unrestricted dollars. The work they did in those early years is allowing us to ignite positive change and create a lasting impact for every resident today, and that will continue, forever.”

A VISION REALIZED

Chautauqua Striders tutor, Jennifer Baglia, works with a student on a new device purchased with a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

A dedicated volunteer and generous philanthropist, there are few organizations in the community that Lenna did not have a hand in shaping. During her lifetime and through the private foundation that bears her name, she supported the YWCA of Jamestown, believing in its mission to empower women and eliminate racism.

Last year, a grant from the Reg and Betty Lenna Fund at the Community Foundation was awarded to the YWCA of Jamestown to implement a Social Justice and Race Equity Program. This funding enables the organization to build upon the early success of “Stand Against Racism” and the “21-Day Challenge for Racial and Social Justice” to offer a full menu of activities, lectures, book discussion groups, and trainings for the entire community.

“We are truly thankful for this generous support to expand the capacity of this mission-oriented program. The grant will amplify our ability to serve our community, and help us fulfill our mission to change the power structures that determine the future,” said Amanda Gesing, YWCA of Jamestown executive director.

Similarly, Ken Strickler, and his wife, Lois supported many organizations and provided leadership to fundraising efforts throughout their time in Jamestown. Ken served as the first president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and reflected in 2008 on the board’s initial goal.

“The people who were the early group were really enthusiastic about starting a community foundation here,” Strickler recalled. “Our original goal with the foundation was to generate unrestricted funds as best we could because we thought this would be the best way to address the future needs of the community.”

The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s first Board of Directors in 1978.
Submitted photos

A man who stood behind his words, Ken and Lois Strickler, contributed to the Community Foundation regularly throughout their lifetimes. They also informed the organization of their planned gift intentions, allowing them to become members of the Foundation’s Legacy Society.

Following Ken’s passing in 2015, an unrestricted fund bearing their names, was created at the Foundation to honor his final wishes and to provide funding for emergent community needs.

UNRESTRICTED FUNDS AND COVID-19

There is perhaps no more significant an event of the current era than a global pandemic, which demonstrates the importance of flexible funds to help organizations meet unimaginable needs. The Kenneth and Lois Strickler Community Fund was part of the foundation’s response by granting funding to Chautauqua Striders to support its Mentoring and Life Skills Education programming, and purchase technology for its On-Track Tutoring program.

According to Chautauqua Striders executive director, Jen Swan-Leuze, the COVID-19 pandemic forced staff to adapt new ways of communicating and supporting students and families when schools closed.

“There was a definite need for students to receive social-emotional support and have connections with caring adults they could count on, and who could help them get through the challenges and anxieties of life,” Swan-Leuze said.

For one Jamestown Public School student, attending hybrid classes while balancing the added stress of a parent diagnosed with cancer was just too much.

According to Swan-Leuze, this student was referred to the program by a JPS staff member and immediately matched with a mentor. Throughout the year, they were able to meet regularly, helping the student navigate the challenges they were facing. Not only did the student improve their grades and pass every class, they were able to gain confidence, feeling less alone during an unprecedented time.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation was part of a group who came together to establish the Chautauqua County Crisis Response Fund: COVID-19. This fund would go on to raise $1 million from a combination of philanthropic, government, business partners and generous individuals.

One of the first commitments to this countywide effort came from the John and Carole Sellstrom Family Charitable Fund. John and his wife, Carole, established this unrestricted fund because they knew firsthand the variety of needs facing the community, having supported many charitable efforts over the years.

The Crisis Response Fund, as it became known, awarded grants to organizations on the frontlines of supporting families and vulnerable adults. One of those organizations was The Salvation Army of Jamestown. According to Major John Merchant, as unemployment skyrocketed, there was an increase in clients utilizing their services, many of whom had never required support before.

“The needs of our community changed very quickly,” Merchant said. “With funding from the Crisis Response Fund, we were able to quickly adapt in order to provide food, personal hygiene items, and infant supplies to individuals and families.”

A LASTING LEGACY

The example set by families like the Lennas, the Stricklers, and the Sellstroms continue to inspire others to make the same commitment today.

As longtime residents of Chautauqua County, Chuck and Sally Swanson were deeply rooted in their community. They were special people who wanted their legacy to be synonymous with the good work of the Foundation.

Together, they made the decision to provide for their community by including an unrestricted gift to the Community Foundation in their estate plans. After Sally passed away in 2021, their family helped establish The Sally and Chuck Swanson Community Fund, which will make its first grant in 2022.

“Sally and Chuck are examples of people who lived and worked in this community, observing how the Foundation responded to the changing needs around us,” said Irgang. “We are so fortunate that they trusted the Foundation to honor their intentions of making a lasting impact on their behalf.”

To learn more about how you can make a difference with the Community Foundation, visit crcfonline.org or contact their office at 716-661-3390.

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