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Foundation to toast its 57 – or 91 – years

Most of us, when we reach our middle-age years, want to look younger, act younger and just be younger.

Imagine waking up one day to find that not only are you not middle-aged, but you’re into your 90s – a nonagenarian! That’s where the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne finds itself.

Let us explain.

Community leaders founded The Fort Wayne Foundation in August 1922.

Years later the Great Depression hit Fort Wayne hard, and the prospects of the foundation’s growing anytime soon were bleak.

In December 1941, a resolution from the Distributions Committee stated, in part:

“WHEREAS … it is deemed highly improbable that any further gifts … will be received … be it resolved … that The Fort Wayne Foundation is hereby terminated …”

Local leaders did not give up on the idea, however, and in 1956 The United Charitable Foundation of Allen County was formed into the organization that is now known as the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne.

Do the math: We like to tell people we are 57 years old.

Recently discovered documents, however, have led us to a different conclusion. In the 1970s a local attorney did some research on the supposedly defunct 1922 foundation. It turned out that the trustees of our original foundation never actually took action on that 1941 resolution from the Distributions Committee. Why not?

We will never know for certain, but one notable fact is the date of that resolution: Dec. 2, 1941, just five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those trustees likely had more important things on their minds in the days that followed than the dissolution of the foundation.

In addition, one of the trustee banks continued to pay dues to the national community foundation association, even after 1941. Not only that, but that trustee still held a $7,500 estate bequest that had been received by the 1922 foundation, which it gave to the 1956 foundation.

On Nov. 20, 1975, trustees of the successor banks representing the 1922 foundation – Anthony Wayne, Indiana, Peoples Trust, Fort Wayne National, and Lincoln National banks – met and formally dissolved the 1922 foundation.

Of course, by that time, the new foundation had been operating for nearly 20 years. And so while we thought that Fort Wayne has been continuously served by a community foundation for 57 years, a community foundation has served Allen County for close to 91 years.

So come and join us on Friday as we celebrate our 91st birthday.

We’ll serve a casual lunch at our office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you can help us blow out 91 candles on our birthday cake ... but you will swear that we don’t look a day older than 57!

David Bennett is executive director of the Community Foundation of Fort Wayne. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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