A Lesson for the Next 100 Years

Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 1:41 pm EDT
Randi Hewit

This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.

See where it all began at our
Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Cleveland this October!

100 years. A lot happens in 100 years. Just take a moment to imagine life in 1914.

An unprecedented World War was just starting. The Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and personal computers were still in the future. Even the science fiction of the time couldn’t predict the world of 2014.

But a small group of people in Cleveland knew that 2014 was coming. They knew that time marches on, and to thrive for generations a community must plan for its future. There will always be children to educate, sick to comfort, and works of art to preserve.

Their idea was simple. Ask people to give money to a single local foundation. Invest the money carefully. Use the earnings to make the community a wonderful place to live through grants and scholarships. Make the foundation last forever.

100 years ago a group of visionaries created the first community foundation.

To celebrate this moment in our history, we are sharing philanthropy’s power with the next generation of leaders. During 2014, staff of the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes are visiting 100 classrooms to teach children how we make the world a better place through giving.

Each classroom gets to give away $100 to a local charity that they choose. It is hard work, and they come to a wide variety of conclusions when asked to solve one of the community’s biggest problems. Some classes take a different approach and want to support a community asset, like a park or museum. There are classes that want to help cancer patients or build homes. One even talked about the fate of the world without bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.

But they have a lot in common. Every single one of them wants to help. They care about each other, their parents, their neighbors, and their pets. They are passionate about their teachers and schools. They love their hometowns.

The best part is hearing them continue the conversation as I walk away. For these children, hunger is a problem to solve - not accept. Art is as important as healthcare, and love is as essential as air.

They understand how the world works. We all do our part and leave our community a better place than we found it. Like the people who started the first community foundation, we know that 2114 is coming. No matter what else we do as a community foundation for the next 100 years (and we have big plans!), we will know that in 2014 we taught 2,000 children how to make 2114 beautiful.

Randi Hewit is President of the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

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