I recently watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart. Of course I watched it – it’s the Christmas season and it’s an unwritten rule to watch this movie every year. If you haven’t watched it yet this year, don’t worry – I’m sure it’s running continuously on some cable or streaming channel. If you’ve never watched the movie, shame on you! Yes, the movie was made in 1946 and it’s in black and white. Yes, the acting may be a little corny. But, the message is timeless and I guarantee that you will absolutely feel good after watching it.
No big spoiler alert, because I’ll just give you the general plot if you’ve never seen it. It’s about a man in a small town at Christmastime who incurs a disappointing setback and wishes he had never been born. A mysterious twist of events shows him what life would have been like had he never existed. Again, watch it. Every year.
So, thinking about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I wondered what life in Marion would be like if Marion Community Foundation never existed. Marion Community Foundation was created 25 years ago in 1998 by some very foresightful people in Marion. I don’t have space in this short article to give you all the details but suffice it to say it began with an endowment of $12 million. Over 25 years, we’ve increased that endowment to more than $60 million. This endowment continues to increase and has been created by thousands of generous donors from Marion. As a philanthropic charity, Marion Community Foundation uses this endowment to return money to the Marion community through grants and scholarships – in fact, 25 million dollars’ worth so far.
Of that $25 million, about $5 million has gone for scholarships to area students – 2,260 of them, to be precise. That literally means thousands of lives of young people have benefitted from receiving assistance from the Foundation to further their education.
The remaining $20 million has been awarded as grants to countless non-profit charities over the years. Those local charities — including schools and churches — have hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are the “boots on the ground” doing great work in Marion. Their programs and projects literally touch everyone in Marion. I’m not exaggerating. I am confident in saying that everyone in Marion County benefits in some way from the work done by all our local nonprofits and charities, and Marion Community Foundation has helped fund so many of them over the past 25 years. I can’t begin to name them all, so I won’t even try.
So, where would we be if Marion Community Foundation never existed? Well, I can’t say that for sure, but let’s just say that we’re all better off because Marion Community Foundation does exist.
And, given the season we’re in, now is a great time if you want to make a charitable gift to Marion Community Foundation. The gift is tax deductible and can go to any one of our 450 endowment funds that benefit the community. I invite you to peruse our funds list to find an endowment to donate to and we’ll be sure to notify the endowment fund’s creator that you made the gift.
“For You. For Marion. Forever.” is the refrain at Marion Community Foundation, whose mission is to continually improve the Marion area through philanthropy, leadership, and civic engagement. The Foundation works to achieve its vision of a generous, educated, healthy, collaborative, and vibrant community. I shudder thinking what it would be like to not have a community foundation in Marion. Instead, I love thinking about all the good the foundation has done for 25 years and how much more it will do for generations to come.
Dean Jacob is president & CEO of Marion Community Foundation, which celebrates its 25th year in 2023.