The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 20, 2020 1:00 am

Bolstering area's foundation in months of crisis

Each November, we celebrate National Philanthropy Month. It’s a good opportunity to focus on people and organizations working for the common good. With the incredibly difficult year we have experienced, it seems more important than ever to shine a light on organizations providing support in the community.

Many do not understand the roles that foundations play in our community, so the leaders of several local foundations have come together to address that. They share how they have been carefully and strategically investing here to help with COVID-19 in areas where they have influence.


Community Foundationof Greater Fort WayneBrad Little,president and CEO

For nearly 100 years, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne has worked side by side with other partners to ensure our community remains vibrant and welcoming to all.

“This most recent crisis – COVID-19 – while devastating to so many has at the same time brought out the best in all of us,” Little said. The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne has responded in numerous ways, including:

• Giving Tuesday NOW (May 5), which raised $700,000 in 12 hours for more than 100 area non-profits.

• Ash Hometown Prosperity Fund, where 17 grants ranging from $3,000 to $50,000 were given to locally owned restaurants, coffee shops and food trucks.

• Partnership with United Way to raise $3.4 million, offering $2.5 million to 35 organizations and three initiatives.

• Artist Relief Fund, in partnership with Arts United, raising more than $57,000 in support of 90 artists.

• SE Fort Wayne Friends & Neighbors Fund, offering 16 grants to date totaling $97,000.


St. Joseph Community Health FoundationMeg Distler,executive director

“We are blessed to be able to serve others in our community by responding with resources that empower others to make a difference,” Distler said.

St. Joe Foundation provides free paper and online directories ( connecting more than 20,000 new parents and families annually with local health and wellness resources that are free or very low cost. In the past 12 months, our reaction to COVID-19 has included:

• Providing $419,000 in funding to 11 local non-profits serving at-risk women, as well as facilitating the Prenatal and Infant Care Network, which has reached nearly 300 prenatal and infant care providers through nine educational seminars.

• Providing another $238,000 in food insecurity grants and programming support, addressing the 40% increase locally in people seeking food from local food banks and other distribution systems.

• Offering COVID-19 grants totaling $94,500.


AWS FoundationPatti Hays, CEO

AWS Foundation is one of a handful of foundations nationwide with a mission centered on those with enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

“During this past year, that mission was met through communitywide awards of $4.8 million,” Hays said.

AWS has addressed COVID-19 needs in the following ways:

• Providing COVID-19 emergency grants of more than $250,000 to ensure food, basic needs and access to needed services for many.

• Offering awards to the Arts Resilience Fund, United Front and area YMCAs to help build a more vibrant and inclusive community that is accessible for everyone.

• Funding and directing design of, an online resource that connects hundreds of people each day to the resources and organizations they need that will provide help to those with disabilities.


The Lutheran FoundationMarcia Haaff, CEO

The Lutheran Foundation invests in Lutheran and community organizations to advance Gospel sharing and promote mental wellness that silences the stigma of mental illness.

“The Lutheran Foundation makes a concerted effort to support programs that open doors to mental wellness,” Haaff said. “We are also deeply committed to the Lutheran community, and faith community in general, throughout northeast Indiana.”

In the past 10 months, the foundation has made the following investments as a result of the COVID-19 crisis:

• In the spring, the Lutheran Foundation gifted more than $1 million to the 92 Lutheran churches in northeast Indiana to offer support at a time when churches were closed, and financial support was down.

• Realizing Lutheran school attendance was negatively affected by COVID-19, this fall the foundation gifted more than $1 million to the 19 Lutheran schools in northeast Indiana.

• The foundation has offered four seminars and educational programs providing the faith community with mental health training and resources.

 Ed Kominowski, president and CEO of the Foellinger Foundation, provides a universal perspective:

“While foundations make a tremendous difference in our community, it’s our donors and founders who have had the foresight to think ahead and be philanthropic. Foundations invest in people and ideas, which foster our shared vision of a better community.

“We should never view this an exclusive group but rather a circle that can always be expanding allowing for new donors and foundations to leave the legacy of a brighter future for everyone in our community.”

– Compiled by Marcia Haaff

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