There’s an organization in Johnson County that rather quietly goes about its business of handing out millions of dollars in grants and scholarships and making the community a better place, and you’ve probably never even heard of it. The Johnson County Community Foundation (JCCF) has been around in some form since 1989. It has grown from raising and managing $1 million in assets with a few dozen funds to handling assets worth $19 million with over 240 funds today. Over the past 20 years, JCCF has awarded grants totaling more than an astounding $10 million. These funds represent a wide variety of initiatives, including education, community development, arts and culture, environmental, and human services.
Gail Richards, President and CEO of JCCF, says the Foundation’s tagline of “connecting people who care with causes that matter” sums up the Foundation perfectly. “We take care of people’s charitable causes by giving them the vehicle by which they reap the maximum tax advantages and do great things in their community, whether it is right now or sometime in the future,” she says. “They also do not have to hassle with the management and administration of doing good things, so they leave it up to us.” In addition, she adds that the Foundation can fund new or start-up programs or help enhance an existing one. JCCF can also step in when an emergency arises, such as the 2008 floods when it provided over $30,000 in emergency funding to nonprofit organizations.
In Center Grove, there are many examples of how the Foundation has touched lives. It has provided grants for the food pantry that Gleaners Food Bank operates at Center Grove High School. It supplied financial backing for the handicap-accessible Independence Park and was the donation conduit for the collection of funds for the Arms of Life project. Arms of Life installed railroad crossing arms at the site of a tragic train/car crash that killed two young boys several years ago.
Ten Center Grove students have received scholarships from JCCF this year alone. One of them is graduating senior Hollis VanFossen who received the Lilly Scholarship funded by Lilly Endowment. It pays for four years of tuition and fees for two students from Johnson County every year.
Center Grove resident Chuck Bailey set up a scholarship fund that provides a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior percussionist band member from Center Grove High School. Chuck says he set up the fund in honor of his wife who was very involved with marching band and was the treasurer of the Band Boosters for several years. “She did all of this while battling colon cancer for nine years which took her life in August 2011. Our four children and I wanted to do something to keep her memory alive,” he says, and adds that he has been very satisfied with JCCF’s administration of the fund and would highly recommend it to others.
If you’ve been looking for a way to give back to your community and to continue giving back long after you are gone, you might want to consider looking into the Johnson County Community Foundation. Gail says the best way to do it is by contacting them and working with the Foundation’s staff one on one. “We can help them identify their charitable passions and how best to contribute,” she says. “Our staff knows about the nonprofit groups in the area better than others because we are in touch with them all the time. Whether they end up donating with us or directly to another, we can still offer guidance.”
For more information or to donate directly, go to jccf.org.