This month, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation will distribute grants exceeding $900,000 to 114 organizations through its designated endowment funds and agencies. These permanent funds provide annual support to specific nonprofit organizations.
“Creating a designated fund makes sense for individuals and families who support the general needs of an organization throughout their lifetime,” said Tory Irgang, executive director of Chautauqua Region CommunityFoundation. “Our staff distributes the dollars each year and ensures that they are used in accordance with the donors’ wishes.
For the Lyons family, there have been few experiences compared to the summers spent at the YMCA’s Camp Onyahsa. It was this sentiment that led them to create the Lyons Family Campership Fund, a designated fund that ensures young locals who want to experience camp have the opportunity to do so.
“I started spending summers at Onyahsa when I was 8 years old,” said Mike Lyons. “I have so many memories of the traditions and the time spent around the campfire. It was a wonderful experience to get outside and learn more about nature.”
It was also a chance to bond with her cousin Jim Lyons, who was 10 years her senior and worked at Onyahsa as an advisor.
“Onyahsa meant a lot to Jim,” said Lyons. “He spent 20 summers there, as a camper, animator and eventually seaside director. It’s something we were able to share growing up, and then later in life, it’s something that brought us closer.
It was also an experience that Lyon shared with his son when he came of age. With all of this in mind, the cousins and their families started this fund and saw its impact before Jim passed away in 2019.
Today, Lyons and his wife, Barbara, remain proud stewards of this family legacy as strong supporters of Camp Onyahsa. Laughing, Lyons even recalls a feisty youngster he had the pleasure of watching become a beloved camp director.
“Onyahsa wouldn’t be what it is today without Jon O’Brian,” he said.
Joanne Nelson has her own fond memories of summer camp, but her summers were spent with the Girl Scouts at Camp Timbercrest.
“I loved my time at Camp Timbercrest,” said Nelson. “I’ve seen so many good things happen there, including seeing our advisors grow and do amazing things.”
In 2019, Nelson established a designated fund for Girl Scouts of Western New York that awards dollars for exterior maintenance and future improvements at the Jamestown Service Center and Camp Timbercrest.
However, this was not the first designated fund Nelson established through the Community Foundation. In previous years, she has worked closely with staff to create funds to benefit organizations that have played a significant role in her life and the lives of her family, such as First Presbyterian Church, Zion Covenant Church and the Chautauqua County Humane Society.
“Foundation staff know our community well and facilitate investment in various funds while clarifying tax benefits,” said Nelson. “They do a great job managing investments and helping everyday people like me create a lasting legacy without having to spend a fortune to do so!”
One of the ways the foundation’s staff works with Nelson to achieve its philanthropic goals is through its Charitable Gift Annuity program, which allows Nelson to become a member of the foundation’s Legacy Society.
A charitable annuity is a contract between a donor and the Community Foundation allowing them to make an immediate gift of cash or marketable securities and, in return, to obtain a partial tax deduction and a fixed income stream for the remainder of their life.
“Of the many tools available at the Community Foundation, the CGA program has truly achieved my goal of generating retirement income now, while ensuring that the nonprofits I have supported throughout my life will benefit. after I leave”, said Nelson.
For others, designated funds are created to honor the memory of a loved one who cared about or spent time with a particular organization or cause. After Heather Potter’s unexpected passing in May 2021, her parents dedicated their time to finding the right way to preserve her memory.
“If you met Heather, you would never forget her” said Brenda Johnson, Heather’s mother. “Her warm smile and cheerful greetings were unforgettable. She just made you feel good to be around her. Above all, Heather loved animals and often volunteered with the Humane Society.
They found the right fit by working with the Community Foundation to create the Heather Potter Memorial Fund, which will award dollars to the Chautauqua County Humane Society each year.
“We are honored to have Heather forever associated with our work through this fund,” said Kellie Roberts, executive director of the Chautauqua County Humane Society.
Although the timing and approach may differ, each donor has the same intention, and that is to continue their generosity forever.
“Whether we are working with donors during their lifetime to establish designated funds or if these arrangements occur at the time of their death, we find this extremely comforting,” Irgang said. “We consider it a privilege to manage the legacy of generous and thoughtful people every day.”
The Chautauqua Area Community Foundation currently manages over 700 endowments to support emerging community needs, charities, and local students pursuing higher education. At the end of 2021, the Foundation’s asset level was $142.1 million.
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.